The following is a summary of “Reactivation-induced memory integration prevents proactive interference in perceptual learning,” published in the May 2023 issue of Ophthalmology by Huang, et al.

The acquisition of perceptual skills is crucial for adapting to the changing environment. Perceptual learning research aimed to achieve effective skill acquisition. However, the specificity of the learning effect often limits generalization, making it difficult to improve learning outcomes. This is due to interference between overlapping memory traces of different learnings. 

In the study, participants were trained on an orientation discrimination task, and proactive interference was observed, where the first training blocked the second training at its untrained location. The interference effect was stronger than the well-known location specificity in perceptual learning. To address this issue, a short reactivation of the first training was introduced before the second training, eliminating the proactive interference if the second training was within the reconsolidation time window of the reactivated first training. 

Surprisingly, practicing an irrelevant task at the location of the second training immediately after the reactivation of the first training could also restore the effect of the second training, albeit to a lesser degree, even if the second training was conducted outside of the reconsolidation window. Researchers proposed a two-level mechanism of reactivation-induced memory integration to explain the findings. The reactivation-based procedure could integrate previously trained and untrained locations or the two pieces of training at these locations, depending on the activated representations during the reconsolidation process. 

The findings provided insight into the role of long-term memory mechanisms in perceptual learning.