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

Concept: Amygdala


Social decisions require evaluation of costs and benefits to oneself and others. Long associated with emotion and vigilance, the amygdala has recently been implicated in both decision-making and social behavior. The amygdala signals reward and punishment, as well as facial expressions and the gaze of others. Amygdala damage impairs social interactions, and the social neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) influences human social decisions, in part, by altering amygdala function. Here we show in monkeys playing a modified dictator game, in which one individual can donate or withhold rewards from another, that basolateral amygdala (BLA) neurons signaled social preferences both across trials and across days. BLA neurons mirrored the value of rewards delivered to self and others when monkeys were free to choose but not when the computer made choices for them. We also found that focal infusion of OT unilaterally into BLA weakly but significantly increased both the frequency of prosocial decisions and attention to recipients for context-specific prosocial decisions, endorsing the hypothesis that OT regulates social behavior, in part, via amygdala neuromodulation. Our findings demonstrate both neurophysiological and neuroendocrinological connections between primate amygdala and social decisions.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Psychology, Amygdala, Sociology, Neuroscience, Primate, Behavior, Social relation


Several experiments have demonstrated an intimate relationship between hippocampal theta rhythm (4-12 Hz) and memory. Lesioning the medial septum or fimbria-fornix, a fiber track connecting the hippocampus and the medial septum, abolishes the theta rhythm and results in a severe impairment in declarative memory. To assess whether there is a causal relationship between hippocampal theta and memory formation we investigated whether restoration of hippocampal theta by electrical stimulation during the encoding phase also restores fimbria-fornix lesion induced memory deficit in rats in the fear conditioning paradigm. Male Wistar rats underwent sham or fimbria-fornix lesion operation. Stimulation electrodes were implanted in the ventral hippocampal commissure and recording electrodes in the septal hippocampus. Artificial theta stimulation of 8 Hz was delivered during 3-min free exploration of the test cage in half of the rats before aversive conditioning with three foot shocks during 2 min. Memory was assessed by total freezing time in the same environment 24 h and 28 h after fear conditioning, and in an intervening test session in a different context. As expected, fimbria-fornix lesion impaired fear memory and dramatically attenuated hippocampal theta power. Artificial theta stimulation produced continuous theta oscillations that were almost similar to endogenous theta rhythm in amplitude and frequency. However, contrary to our predictions, artificial theta stimulation impaired conditioned fear response in both sham and fimbria-fornix lesioned animals. These data suggest that restoration of theta oscillation per se is not sufficient to support memory encoding after fimbria-fornix lesion and that universal theta oscillation in the hippocampus with a fixed frequency may actually impair memory.

Concepts: Amygdala, Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory, Procedural memory, Semantic memory, Declarative memory, Theta rhythm


Robust sleep/wake rhythms are important for health and cognitive function. Unfortunately, many people are living in an environment where their circadian system is challenged by inappropriate meal- or work-times. Here we scheduled food access to the sleep time and examined the impact on learning and memory in mice. Under these conditions, we demonstrate that the molecular clock in the master pacemaker, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), is unaltered while the molecular clock in the hippocampus is synchronized by the timing of food availability. This chronic circadian misalignment causes reduced hippocampal long term potentiation and total CREB expression. Importantly this mis-timed feeding resulted in dramatic deficits in hippocampal-dependent learning and memory. Our findings suggest that the timing of meals have far-reaching effects on hippocampal physiology and learned behaviour.

Concepts: Psychology, Amygdala, Food, Sleep, Memory, Hippocampus, Long-term potentiation, Long-term memory


It is currently not known whether caffeine has an enhancing effect on long-term memory in humans. We used post-study caffeine administration to test its effect on memory consolidation using a behavioral discrimination task. Caffeine enhanced performance 24 h after administration according to an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve; this effect was specific to consolidation and not retrieval. We conclude that caffeine enhanced consolidation of long-term memories in humans.

Concepts: Psychology, Amygdala, Memory, Long-term memory


Persistent long-term memory depends on successful stabilization and integration of new memories after initial encoding [1, 2]. This consolidation process is thought to require neuromodulatory factors such as dopamine, noradrenaline, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor [3-7]. Without the release of such factors around the time of encoding, memories will decay rapidly [3, 5, 6, 8]. Recent studies have shown that physical exercise acutely stimulates the release of several consolidation-promoting factors in humans [9-14], raising the question of whether physical exercise can be used to improve memory retention [15-17]. Here, we used a single session of physical exercise after learning to exogenously boost memory consolidation and thus long-term memory. Three groups of randomly assigned participants first encoded a set of picture-location associations. Afterward, one group performed exercise immediately, one 4 hr later, and the third did not perform any exercise. Participants otherwise underwent exactly the same procedures to control for potential experimental confounds. Forty-eight hours later, participants returned for a cued-recall test in a magnetic resonance scanner. With this design, we could investigate the impact of acute exercise on memory consolidation and retrieval-related neural processing. We found that performing exercise 4 hr, but not immediately, after encoding improved the retention of picture-location associations compared to the no-exercise control group. Moreover, performing exercise after a delay was associated with increased hippocampal pattern similarity for correct responses during delayed retrieval. Our results suggest that appropriately timed physical exercise can improve long-term memory and highlight the potential of exercise as an intervention in educational and clinical settings.

Concepts: Psychology, Amygdala, Improve, Memory, Hippocampus, Long-term potentiation, Episodic memory, Declarative memory


Brief periods of sleep loss have long-lasting consequences such as impaired memory consolidation. Structural changes in synaptic connectivity have been proposed as a substrate of memory storage. Here, we examine the impact of brief periods of sleep deprivation on dendritic structure. In mice, we find that five hours of sleep deprivation decreases dendritic spine numbers selectively in hippocampal area CA1 and increased activity of the filamentous actin severing protein cofilin. Recovery sleep normalizes these structural alterations. Suppression of cofilin function prevents spine loss, deficits in hippocampal synaptic plasticity, and impairments in long-term memory caused by sleep deprivation. The elevated cofilin activity is caused by cAMP-degrading phosphodiesterase-4A5 (PDE4A5), which hampers cAMP-PKA-LIMK signaling. Attenuating PDE4A5 function prevents changes in cAMP-PKA-LIMK-cofilin signaling and cognitive deficits associated with sleep deprivation. Our work demonstrates the necessity of an intact cAMP-PDE4-PKA-LIMK-cofilin activation-signaling pathway for sleep deprivation-induced memory disruption and reduction in hippocampal spine density.

Concepts: Amygdala, Sleep, Sleep deprivation, Memory, Hippocampus, Dendrite, Long-term potentiation, Dendritic spine


Stress is a potent modulator of the mammalian brain. The highly conserved stress hormone response influences many brain regions, particularly the hippocampus, a region important for memory function. The effect of acute stress on the unique population of adult neural stem/progenitor cells (NPCs) that resides in the adult hippocampus is unclear. We found that acute stress increased hippocampal cell proliferation and astrocytic fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) expression. The effect of acute stress occurred independent of basolateral amygdala neural input and was mimicked by treating isolated NPCs with conditioned media from corticosterone-treated primary astrocytes. Neutralization of FGF2 revealed that astrocyte-secreted FGF2 mediated stress-hormone-induced NPC proliferation. 2 weeks, but not 2 days, after acute stress, rats also showed enhanced fear extinction memory coincident with enhanced activation of newborn neurons. Our findings suggest a beneficial role for brief stress on the hippocampus and improve understanding of the adaptive capacity of the brain. DOI:

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Amygdala, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Hippocampus


Place cell firing patterns reactivated during hippocampal sharp-wave ripples (SWRs) in rest or sleep are thought to induce synaptic plasticity and thereby promote the consolidation of recently encoded information. However, the capacity of reactivated spike trains to induce plasticity has not been directly tested. Here, we show that reactivated place cell firing patterns simultaneously recorded from CA3 and CA1 of rat dorsal hippocampus are able to induce long-term potentiation (LTP) at synapses between CA3 and CA1 cells but only if accompanied by SWR-associated synaptic activity and resulting dendritic depolarization. In addition, we show that the precise timing of coincident CA3 and CA1 place cell spikes in relation to SWR onset is critical for the induction of LTP and predictive of plasticity generated by reactivation. Our findings confirm an important role for SWRs in triggering and tuning plasticity processes that underlie memory consolidation in the hippocampus during rest or sleep.

Concepts: Amygdala, Synaptic plasticity, Memory, Hippocampus, NMDA receptor, Long-term potentiation, Episodic memory, Long-term 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


The ability to suppress unwanted emotional memories is crucial for human mental health. Through consolidation over time, emotional memories often become resistant to change. However, how consolidation impacts the effectiveness of emotional memory suppression is still unknown. Using event-related fMRI while concurrently recording skin conductance, we investigated the neurobiological processes underlying the suppression of aversive memories before and after overnight consolidation. Here we report that consolidated aversive memories retain their emotional reactivity and become more resistant to suppression. Suppression of consolidated memories involves higher prefrontal engagement, and less concomitant hippocampal and amygdala disengagement. In parallel, we show a shift away from hippocampal-dependent representational patterns to distributed neocortical representational patterns in the suppression of aversive memories after consolidation. These findings demonstrate rapid changes in emotional memory organization with overnight consolidation, and suggest possible neurobiological bases underlying the resistance to suppression of emotional memories in affective disorders.

Concepts: Psychology, Amygdala, Neuroscience, Memory, Hippocampus, Limbic system, Emotion, Long-term potentiation