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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2012 Jan;97(1):59-68. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2011.09.005. Epub 2011 Sep 22.

Phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase in the medial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala following memory retrieval or forgetting in developing rats.

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.


We examined neuronal correlates of forgetting in rats by detection of phosphorylated mitogen-activated protein kinase (pMAPK) in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and amygdala. In Experiment 1, postnatal day (P)23 and P16 rats received paired noise CS-shock US presentations. When tested immediately after conditioning, P23 and P16 rats exhibited similar levels of conditioned fear; when tested after 2 days, however, P16 rats showed poor CS-elicited freezing relative to P23 rats. In Experiment 2, P16 and P23 rats received either paired or unpaired CS-US presentations, and then were tested 48 h later. Consistent with Experiment 1, P16 rats showed forgetting whereas P23 rats exhibited good retention at test. Additionally, unpaired groups showed poor CS-elicited freezing at test. Immunohistochemistry showed that P23 and P16 rats given paired presentations exhibited significant elevation of pMAPK-immunoreactive (ir) neurons in the amygdala compared to rats given unpaired presentations. That is, MAPK phosphorylation in the amygdala tracked learning history rather than behavioral performance at test. In contrast, only the P23-paired group showed an elevated number of pMAPK-ir neurons in mPFC, indicating that MAPK phosphorylation in the mPFC tracks memory expression. Different test-perfusion intervals were employed in Experiment 3, which showed that the developmental dissociation in the pMAPK-ir neurons observed in the mPFC in Experiment 2 was not due to age differences in the rate of phosphorylation of MAPK. These findings provide initial evidence suggesting that while the mPFC is involved in memory retrieval, MAPK phosphorylation in the amygdala may be a persisting neural signature of fear memory.

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