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Front Mol Neurosci. 2009 Dec 15;2:27. doi: 10.3389/neuro.02.027.2009. eCollection 2009.

Genetic control of active neural circuits.

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Department of Cell Biology, The Scripps Research Institute La Jolla, CA, USA.


The use of molecular tools to study the neurobiology of complex behaviors has been hampered by an inability to target the desired changes to relevant groups of neurons. Specific memories and specific sensory representations are sparsely encoded by a small fraction of neurons embedded in a sea of morphologically and functionally similar cells. In this review we discuss genetics techniques that are being developed to address this difficulty. In several studies the use of promoter elements that are responsive to neural activity have been used to drive long-lasting genetic alterations into neural ensembles that are activated by natural environmental stimuli. This approach has been used to examine neural activity patterns during learning and retrieval of a memory, to examine the regulation of receptor trafficking following learning and to functionally manipulate a specific memory trace. We suggest that these techniques will provide a general approach to experimentally investigate the link between patterns of environmentally activated neural firing and cognitive processes such as perception and memory.


amygdala; creb; fear conditioning; fos; genetics; memory; neural circuits; tetracycline

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