Research shows that memory traces can become labile undercertain circumstances and must be restabilized. Interrupting this reconsolidation process can change a previously stable memory. A number of studies in the past have demonstrated this reconsolidation associated "amnesia" in nonhuman animals. But, evidence of this in humans is less certain with regard to declarative memory. Reactivating a declarative memory can make it less susceptible to disruption. In this study, it is shown that declarative memories can be selectively impaired by using a noninvasive retrieval–relearning technique. Six experiments prove this reconsolidation-associated amnesia can be achieved 48 hours after formation of the original memory - but only if relearning occurrs shortly after retrieval. This effect persists for at least 24 hours and is not attributable to source confusion alone. It is attainable only when relearning targets specific existing memories for impairment. This study shows that human declarative memory can be selectively rewritten during a reconsolidation phase.
This study has remarkable implications for law enforcement because it adds to the body of work proving that eyewitness testimony is often the least reliable evidence in a court of law - even as it is the most common evidence used to acheive a conviction.