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J Neurosci. 1999 Aug 1;19(15):6623-8.

Attenuation of emotional and nonemotional memories after their reactivation: role of beta adrenergic receptors.

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  • 1Neuromodulation et Processus Cognitifs, Institut des Neurosciences, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Unité Mixte de Recherche 7624, Université Paris VI, 75005 Paris, France.


A memory trace in its active state is susceptible to interference by amnesic agents, such as hypothermia and electroconvulsive shock, and by NMDA receptor antagonists, suggesting that a time-dependent consolidation process occurs each time a memory is reactivated. The role of beta noradrenergic receptors in reconsolidation in rats was examined in both a positively reinforced radial maze task and a footshock-reinforced conditioned emotional response task. For the former, rats were trained over several days in a spatial reference memory task and received a single reactivation trial followed by propranolol. A temporally graded impairment was observed when propranolol treatment occurred after the memory reactivation trial. In the emotional task, memory impairing effects of propranolol were greater when the drug was administered after a reactivation trial than when administered immediately after the initial training. These results suggest that reactivation of memory triggers a beta receptor-dependent cascade of intracellular events, recapitulating that which occurs during initial postacquisition consolidation, thus permitting reorganization of the existing memory as a function of new information in the retrieval environment. This remarkable lability of an active memory trace provides a new basis for pharmacotherapeutic intervention in such syndromes as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. beta adrenoreceptor antagonists may be promising pharmacological agents for attenuating debilitating memories at the time of their controlled reactivation.

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