The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

State-Dependent Memory Definition

Learning that takes place in one situation or "state" is generally better remembered later in a similar situation or state. This can include:

1. Environmental context

Subjects who learn information in one room are able to remember more when tested in the same room than in a novel room. Other environmental influences may include the time of day and the people who are present.

2. Physical state

Subjects who learn new information while under the influence of a drug, such as caffeine or nicotine, will perform better if tested under the influence of the same drug.

3. Emotional state

Subjects who are sad are better able to remember unhappy or unpleasant memories; subjects who are happy are better able to remember happy or pleasant memories.

The effect of emotional state is amplified in subjects with depression, who may show disproportionate retrieval of unhappy memories -- thus unintentionally heightening their own feelings of depression.

4. Sensory modality

Subjects given information in verbal format may be more able to answer verbal questions about the information, while subjects to whom the information is presented in a visual format may be more able to recognize the same information again when presented visually.

by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain