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Learn Mem. 2006 Jul-Aug;13(4):451-7.

Stability of recent and remote contextual fear memory.

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  • 1Program in Neuroscience and Mental Health, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1X8.


Following initial encoding, memories undergo a prolonged period of reorganization. While such reorganization may occur in many different memory systems, its purpose is not clear. Previously, we have shown that recall of recent contextual fear memories engages the dorsal hippocampus (dHPC). In contrast, recall of remote contextual fear memories engages a number of different cortical regions, including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). To examine whether this reorganization leads to greater memory stability, we examined reconsolidation of 1 d-old (recent) and 36 d-old (remote) contextual fear memory in mice. We infused the protein synthesis inhibitor, anisomycin (ANI), into either the dHPC or ACC immediately following retrieval of either a recent or remote contextual fear memory. In the dHPC, ANI infusions disrupted subsequent expression of recent, but not remote, contextual fear memory. Similar infusions into the ACC had no effect on either recent or remote contextual fear memories, whereas systemically applied ANI blocked subsequent remote memory expression when long re-exposure durations were used. Together, these data suggest that as memories mature they become increasingly stable. Furthermore, the dissociation between the effects of systemically and centrally administered ANI on remote memory suggests that stability is due, in part, to the distributed nature of remote contextual fear memories.

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