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J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2010 Jul;35(4):221-8.

Continuing the search for the engram: examining the mechanism of fear memories.

Author information

  • 1Program in Neurosciences and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children, and the Department of Physiology and Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont., Canada. sheena.josselyn@sickkids.ca

Abstract

The goal of my research is to gain insight using rodent models into the fundamental molecular, cellular and systems that make up the base of memory formation. My work focuses on fear memories. Aberrant fear and/or anxiety may be at the heart of many psychiatric disorders. In this article, I review the results of my research group; these results show that particular neurons in the lateral amygdala, a brain region important for fear, are specifically involved in particular fear memories. We started by showing that the transcription factor CREB (cAMP/Ca(2+) response element binding protein) plays a key role in the formation of fear memories. Next, we used viral vectors to overexpress CREB in a subset of lateral amygdala neurons. This not only facilitated fear memory formation but also "drove" the memory into the neurons with relatively increased CREB function. Finally, we showed that selective ablation of the neurons overexpressing CREB in the lateral amygdala selectively erased the fear memory. These findings are the first to show disruption of a specific memory by disrupting select neurons within a distributed network.

PMID:
20569648
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2895151
Free PMC Article
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