The neurological basis for fear and memory

June 18, 2012
The neurological basis for fear and memory
Credit: Thinkstock

Fear conditioning using sound and taste aversion, as applied to mice, have revealed interesting information on the basis of memory allocation.

European 'Cellular mechanisms underlying formation of the fear memory trace in the mouse amygdala' (FEAR Memory TRACE) project is investigating memory allocation and the recruitment of certain neurons to encode a memory. By studying conditioned fear memory in response to an auditory stimulus, the researchers have delved into pathological emotional states and involved in memory allocation, retrieval and extinction.

Prior research has revealed that the conditioned fear response in mice is located in a specific bundle of neurons in the amygdala. Memory allocation modulation is due to expression of the transcription factor, cyclic adenosine 3', 5'-monophosphate response element binding protein (CREB) and possibly neuronal excitability.

FEAR Memory TRACE focused on the electrophysiological properties of neurons encoding the same memory. The project also aimed to ascertain the biophysical mechanisms in the plasticity changes recorded in the specific set of neurons in the fear memory trace.

Recording information on auditory fear conditioning and conditioned taste aversion, the scientists used intra-amygdala surgery using and electrophysiological experiments to detect neuronal excitability.

Transfected by virus, CREB tagged with green fluorescent protein together with the gene for channelrhodopsin2 were used in neural control experiments. Combined, these two elements caused neuron firing in specific . Molecular techniques included western blot for protein detection, genotyping and preparation.

Behavioural tests on long- and short-term memory of mice involving fear conditioning and taste aversion showed increased memory performance at the three-hour point rather than the five-hour point. The intrinsic excitability of the mice receiving both shock and the tone was increased at three hours, not five, compared to mice that only received the tone.

As the project continues to its close in two years, the aim is to identify biophysical mechanisms involved in recruiting neurons that compete with each other for a specific memory. FEAR will also develop computational models to assess the role of these mechanisms in memory performance.

Information on biochemical processes in neural mechanisms has wide application in many clinical situations including patients suffering memory loss, such as stroke victims. manipulation can be applied in treatment of neuroses and phobias.

Explore further: Regulating the formation of fear extinction memory

Related Stories

Recommended for you

'Sixth sense' may be more than just a feeling

September 22, 2016

With the help of two young patients with a unique neurological disorder, an initial study by scientists at the National Institutes of Health suggests that a gene called PIEZO2 controls specific aspects of human touch and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.