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The brain contains a relatively simple circuit for forming Pavlovian associations, yet it achieves many operations common across memory systems. Recent advances have established a clear framework for learning and revealed the following key operations: ) pattern separation, whereby dense combinatorial representations of odors are preprocessed to generate highly specific, nonoverlapping odor patterns used for learning; ) convergence, in which sensory information is funneled to a small set of output neurons that guide behavioral actions; ) plasticity, where changing the mapping of sensory input to behavioral output requires a strong reinforcement signal, which is also modulated by internal state and environmental context; and ) modularization, in which a memory consists of multiple parallel traces, which are distinct in stability and flexibility and exist in anatomically well-defined modules within the network. Cross-module interactions allow for higher-order effects where past experience influences future learning. Many of these operations have parallels with processes of memory formation and action selection in more complex brains.