Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Amnesia


Obesity has become an international health crisis. There is accumulating evidence that excess bodyweight is associated with changes to the structure and function of the brain and with a number of cognitive deficits. In particular, research suggests that obesity is associated with hippocampal and frontal lobe dysfunction, which would be predicted to impact memory. However evidence for such memory impairment is currently limited. We hypothesised that higher BMI would be associated with reduced performance on a test of episodic memory that assesses not only content, but also context and feature integration. 50 participants aged 18-35, with BMIs ranging from 18 to 51, were tested on a novel what-where-when style episodic memory test: The “Treasure-Hunt Task”. This test requires recollection of object, location, and temporal order information within the same paradigm, as well as testing the ability to integrate these features into a single event recollection. Higher BMI was associated with significantly lower performance on the What-Where-When memory task and all individual elements: object identification, location memory, and temporal order memory. After controlling for age, sex and years in education, the effect of BMI on the individual what, where and when tasks remained, while the WWW dropped below significance. This finding of episodic memory deficits in obesity is of concern given the emerging evidence for a role for episodic cognition in appetite regulation.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cognition, Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory, Procedural memory, Amnesia


Psychological and neurobiological evidence implicates hippocampal-dependent memory processes in the control of hunger and food intake. In humans, these have been revealed in the hyperphagia that is associated with amnesia. However, it remains unclear whether ‘memory for recent eating’ plays a significant role in neurologically intact humans. In this study we isolated the extent to which memory for a recently consumed meal influences hunger and fullness over a three-hour period. Before lunch, half of our volunteers were shown 300 ml of soup and half were shown 500 ml. Orthogonal to this, half consumed 300 ml and half consumed 500 ml. This process yielded four separate groups (25 volunteers in each). Independent manipulation of the ‘actual’ and ‘perceived’ soup portion was achieved using a computer-controlled peristaltic pump. This was designed to either refill or draw soup from a soup bowl in a covert manner. Immediately after lunch, self-reported hunger was influenced by the actual and not the perceived amount of soup consumed. However, two and three hours after meal termination this pattern was reversed - hunger was predicted by the perceived amount and not the actual amount. Participants who thought they had consumed the larger 500-ml portion reported significantly less hunger. This was also associated with an increase in the ‘expected satiation’ of the soup 24-hours later. For the first time, this manipulation exposes the independent and important contribution of memory processes to satiety. Opportunities exist to capitalise on this finding to reduce energy intake in humans.

Concepts: Psychology, Food, Memory, Hippocampus, Appetite, Episodic memory, Amnesia, Restaurant


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an efficient and relatively fast acting treatment for depression. However, one severe side effect of the treatment is retrograde amnesia, which in certain cases can be long-term. The mechanisms behind the antidepressant effect and the amnesia are not well understood. We hypothesized that ECT causes transient downregulation of key molecules needed to stabilize synaptic structure and to prevent Ca2+ influx, and a simultaneous increase in neurotrophic factors, thus providing a short time window of increased structural synaptic plasticity. Here we followed regulation of NgR1, NgR3, LOTUS, BDNF, and AMPA subunits GluR1 and GluR2 flip and flop mRNA levels in hippocampus at 2, 4, 12, 24, and 72 hours after a single episode of induced electroconvulsive seizures (ECS) in rats. NgR1 and LOTUS mRNA levels were transiently downregulated in the dentate gyrus 2, 4, 12 and 4, 12, 24 h after ECS treatment, respectively. GluR2 flip, flop and GluR1 flop were downregulated at 4 h. GluR2 flip remained downregulated at 12 h. In contrast, BDNF, NgR3 and GluR1 flip mRNA levels were upregulated. Thus, ECS treatment induces a transient regulation of factors important for neuronal plasticity. Our data provide correlations between ECS treatment and molecular events compatible with the hypothesis that both effects and side effects of ECT may be caused by structural synaptic rearrangements.

Concepts: Hippocampus, Dentate gyrus, Neurogenesis, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, Neuroplasticity, Amnesia, Electroconvulsive therapy, Retrograde amnesia


Despite our optimistic belief that we would behave honestly when facing the temptation to act unethically, we often cross ethical boundaries. This paper explores one possibility of why people engage in unethical behavior over time by suggesting that their memory for their past unethical actions is impaired. We propose that, after engaging in unethical behavior, individuals' memories of their actions become more obfuscated over time because of the psychological distress and discomfort such misdeeds cause. In nine studies (n = 2,109), we show that engaging in unethical behavior produces changes in memory so that memories of unethical actions gradually become less clear and vivid than memories of ethical actions or other types of actions that are either positive or negative in valence. We term this memory obfuscation of one’s unethical acts over time “unethical amnesia.” Because of unethical amnesia, people are more likely to act dishonestly repeatedly over time.

Concepts: Psychology, Greek loanwords, Memory, Hippocampus, Philosophy, Human behavior, Episodic memory, Amnesia


The hippocampus is critical for the acquisition and retrieval of episodic and contextual memories. Lesions of the dentate gyrus, a principal input of the hippocampus, block memory acquisition, but it remains unclear whether this region also plays a role in memory retrieval. Here we combine cell-type specific neural inhibition with electrophysiological measurements of learning-associated plasticity in behaving mice to demonstrate that dentate gyrus granule cells are not required for memory retrieval, but instead have an unexpected role in memory maintenance. Furthermore, we demonstrate the translational potential of our findings by showing that pharmacological activation of an endogenous inhibitory receptor expressed selectively in dentate gyrus granule cells can induce a rapid loss of hippocampal memory. These findings open a new avenue for the targeted erasure of episodic and contextual memories.

Concepts: Memory, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Neurogenesis, Granule cell, Episodic memory, Amnesia, Semantic memory


Memories can be unreliable. We created a false memory in mice by optogenetically manipulating memory engram-bearing cells in the hippocampus. Dentate gyrus (DG) or CA1 neurons activated by exposure to a particular context were labeled with channelrhodopsin-2. These neurons were later optically reactivated during fear conditioning in a different context. The DG experimental group showed increased freezing in the original context, in which a foot shock was never delivered. The recall of this false memory was context-specific, activated similar downstream regions engaged during natural fear memory recall, and was also capable of driving an active fear response. Our data demonstrate that it is possible to generate an internally represented and behaviorally expressed fear memory via artificial means.

Concepts: Amygdala, Memory, Dentate gyrus, Neurogenesis, Granule cell, Fear, Amnesia, Entorhinal cortex


Neuroplastin cell recognition molecules have been implicated in synaptic plasticity. Polymorphisms in the regulatory region of the human neuroplastin gene (NPTN) are correlated with cortical thickness and intellectual abilities in adolescents and in individuals with schizophrenia.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Cell, Hippocampus, Amnesia, Retrograde amnesia


Exposure to severe and prolonged stress has detrimental effects on the hippocampus. However, relatively little is known about the gradual changes in hippocampal structure, and its behavioral consequences, over the course of repeated stress. Behavioral analyses during 10 days of chronic stress pointed to a delayed decline in spatial memory, the full impact of which is evident only after the end of stress. In contrast, concurrent volumetric measurements in the same animals revealed significant reduction in hippocampal volumes in stressed animals relative to their unstressed counterparts, as early as the third day of stress. Notably, animals that were behaviorally the worst affected at the end of chronic stress suffered the most pronounced early loss in hippocampal volume. Together, these findings support the view that not only is smaller hippocampal volume linked to stress-induced memory deficits, but it may also act as an early risk factor for the eventual development of cognitive impairments seen in stress-related psychiatric disorders.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Volume, Thermodynamics, Memory, Hippocampus, Amnesia, Spatial memory


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive memory decline and subsequent loss of broader cognitive functions. Memory decline in the early stages of AD is mostly limited to episodic memory, for which the hippocampus has a crucial role. However, it has been uncertain whether the observed amnesia in the early stages of AD is due to disrupted encoding and consolidation of episodic information, or an impairment in the retrieval of stored memory information. Here we show that in transgenic mouse models of early AD, direct optogenetic activation of hippocampal memory engram cells results in memory retrieval despite the fact that these mice are amnesic in long-term memory tests when natural recall cues are used, revealing a retrieval, rather than a storage impairment. Before amyloid plaque deposition, the amnesia in these mice is age-dependent, which correlates with a progressive reduction in spine density of hippocampal dentate gyrus engram cells. We show that optogenetic induction of long-term potentiation at perforant path synapses of dentate gyrus engram cells restores both spine density and long-term memory. We also demonstrate that an ablation of dentate gyrus engram cells containing restored spine density prevents the rescue of long-term memory. Thus, selective rescue of spine density in engram cells may lead to an effective strategy for treating memory loss in the early stages of AD.

Concepts: Memory, Hippocampus, Long-term potentiation, Episodic memory, Long-term memory, Amnesia, Semantic memory, Declarative memory


Hippocampal damage profoundly disrupts the ability to store new memories of life events. Amnesic windows might also occur in healthy people due to disturbed hippocampal function arising during mental processes that systemically reduce hippocampal activity. Intentionally suppressing memory retrieval (retrieval stopping) reduces hippocampal activity via control mechanisms mediated by the lateral prefrontal cortex. Here we show that when people suppress retrieval given a reminder of an unwanted memory, they are considerably more likely to forget unrelated experiences from periods surrounding suppression. This amnesic shadow follows a dose-response function, becomes more pronounced after practice suppressing retrieval, exhibits characteristics indicating disturbed hippocampal function, and is predicted by reduced hippocampal activity. These findings indicate that stopping retrieval engages a suppression mechanism that broadly compromises hippocampal processes and that hippocampal stabilization processes can be interrupted strategically. Cognitively triggered amnesia constitutes an unrecognized forgetting process that may account for otherwise unexplained memory lapses following trauma.

Concepts: Brain, Memory, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Limbic system, Frontal lobe, Episodic memory, Amnesia