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Learning & Memory current issue

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{alpha}2-Adrenergic receptor activation promotes long-term potentiation at excitatory synapses in the mouse accessory olfactory bulb [RESEARCH]


The formation of mate recognition memory in mice is associated with neural changes at the reciprocal dendrodendritic synapses between glutamatergic mitral cell (MC) projection neurons and GABAergic granule cell (GC) interneurons in the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB). Although noradrenaline (NA) plays a critical role in the formation of the memory, the mechanism by which it exerts this effect remains unclear. Here we used extracellular field potential and whole-cell patch-clamp recordings to assess the actions of bath-applied NA (10 µM) on the glutamatergic transmission and its plasticity at the MC-to-GC synapse in the AOB. Stimulation (400 stimuli) of MC axons at 10 Hz but not at 100 Hz effectively induced N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-dependent long-term potentiation (LTP), which exhibited reversibility. NA paired with subthreshold 10-Hz stimulation (200 stimuli) facilitated the induction of NMDA receptor-dependent LTP via the activation of α2-adrenergic receptors (ARs). We next examined how NA, acting at α2-ARs, facilitates LTP induction. In terms of acute actions, NA suppressed GC excitatory postsynaptic current (EPSC) responses to single pulse stimulation of MC axons by reducing glutamate release from MCs via G-protein coupled inhibition of calcium channels. Consequently, NA reduced recurrent inhibition of MCs, resulting in the enhancement of evoked EPSCs and spike fidelity in GCs during the 10-Hz stimulation used to induce LTP. These results suggest that NA, acting at α2-ARs, facilitates the induction of NMDA receptor-dependent LTP at the MC-to-GC synapse by shifting its threshold through disinhibition of MCs.

Elucidating the mechanisms of fear extinction in developing animals: a special case of NMDA receptor-independent extinction in adolescent rats [RESEARCH]


NMDA receptors (NMDARs) are considered critical for the consolidation of extinction but recent work challenges this assumption. Namely, NMDARs are not required for extinction retention in infant rats as well as when extinction training occurs for a second time (i.e., reextinction) in adult rats. In this study, a possible third instance of NMDAR-independent extinction was tested. Although adolescents typically exhibit impaired extinction retention, rats that are conditioned as juveniles and then given extinction training as adolescents (JuvCond-AdolesExt) have good extinction retention. Unexpectedly, this good extinction retention is not associated with an up-regulation of a synaptic plasticity marker in the medial prefrontal cortex, a region implicated in extinction consolidation. In the current study, rats received either the noncompetitive NMDAR antagonist MK801 (0.1 mg/kg, s.c.) or saline before extinction training. In several experiments, rats conditioned and extinguished as juveniles, adolescents, or adults exhibited impaired extinction retention after MK801 compared to saline, but this effect was not observed in JuvCond-AdolesExt rats. Further experiments ruled out several alternative explanations for why NMDAR antagonism did not affect extinction retention in adolescents extinguishing fear learned as a juvenile. These results illustrate yet another circumstance in which NMDARs are not required for successful extinction retention and highlight the complexity of fear inhibition across development.

The effects of extinction-aroused attention on context conditioning [RESEARCH]


Two experiments assessed the effects of extinguishing a conditioned cue on subsequent context conditioning. Each experiment used a different video-game method where sensors predicted attacking spaceships and participants responded to the sensor in a way that prepared them for the upcoming attack. In Experiment 1 extinction of a cue which signaled a spaceship-attack outcome facilitated subsequent learning when the attack occurred unsignaled. In Experiment 2 extinction of a cue facilitated subsequent learning, regardless of whether the spaceship outcome was the same or different as used in the earlier training. In neither experiment did the extinction context become inhibitory. Results are discussed in terms of current associative theories of attention and conditioning.

Mechanisms of critical period in the hippocampus underlie object location learning and memory in infant rats [RESEARCH]


Episodic memories in early childhood are rapidly forgotten, a phenomenon that is associated with "infantile amnesia," the inability of adults to remember early-life experiences. We recently showed that early aversive contextual memory in infant rats, which is in fact rapidly forgotten, is actually not lost, as reminders presented later in life reinstate a long-lasting and context-specific memory. We also showed that the formation of this infantile memory recruits in the hippocampus mechanisms typical of developmental critical periods. Here, we tested whether similar mechanisms apply to a nonaversive, hippocampal type of learning. We report that novel object location (nOL) learned at postnatal day 17 (PN17) undergoes the typical rapid forgetting of infantile learning. However, a later reminder reinstates memory expression. Furthermore, as for aversive experiences, nOL learning at PN17 engages critical period mechanisms in the dorsal hippocampus: it induces a switch in the GluN2A/2B-NMDA receptor ratio, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor injected bilaterally into the dorsal hippocampus immediately after training results in long-lasting memory expression. We conclude that in infancy the hippocampus plays a necessary role in processing episodic and contextual memories, including nonaversive ones, and matures through a developmental critical period.

Elongator complex is required for long-term olfactory memory formation in Drosophila [RESEARCH]


The evolutionarily conserved Elongator Complex associates with RNA polymerase II for transcriptional elongation. Elp3 is the catalytic subunit, contains histone acetyltransferase activity, and is associated with neurodegeneration in humans. Elp1 is a scaffolding subunit and when mutated causes familial dysautonomia. Here, we show that elp3 and elp1 are required for aversive long-term olfactory memory in Drosophila. RNAi knockdown of elp3 in adult mushroom bodies impairs long-term memory (LTM) without affecting earlier forms of memory. RNAi knockdown with coexpression of elp3 cDNA reverses the impairment. Similarly, RNAi knockdown of elp1 impairs LTM and coexpression of elp1 cDNA reverses this phenotype. The LTM deficit in elp3 and elp1 knockdown flies is accompanied by the abolishment of a LTM trace, which is registered as increased calcium influx in response to the CS+ odor in the α-branch of mushroom body neurons. Coexpression of elp1 or elp3 cDNA rescues the memory trace in parallel with LTM. These data show that the Elongator complex is required in adult mushroom body neurons for long-term behavioral memory and the associated long-term memory trace.