21 May How and Where Does the Brain Encode Fearful Memories
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jun-Hyeong Cho, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Cell Biology & Neuroscience
University of California, Riverside
Riverside, CA 92521
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: In order to survive in a dynamic environment, animals develop adaptive fear responses to dangerous situations, which requires coordinated neural activity in the hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and amygdala. Dysregulation of this process leads to maladaptive generalized fear in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which affects 7 percent of the U.S. population.
In this study, we found that a population of hippocampal neurons project to both amygdala and medical prefrontal cortex (mPFC). We also found neural mechanisms how these double-projecting neurons efficiently convey contextual information to the amygdala and mPFC to encode and retrieve fear memory for a context associated with an aversive event.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Our study suggests that double-projecting hippocampal neurons can facilitate synchronized neural activity in the mPFC and amygdala that is implicated in learned fear. They can also convey contextual information efficiently to the amygdala through both the direct and the indirect pathways. By modulating the activity of the mPFC and basal amygdala, double-projecting hippocampal neurons are likely to contribute to the acquisition and retrieval of fear memory for a context associated with an aversive event.
Our study is expected to expand understanding of how associative fear memory for a relevant context is encoded in the brain. Such knowledge has the potential to inform the development of novel therapeutics to attenuate pathological fear in PTSD.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: To determine more clearly the role of double-projecting hippocampal neurons in fear learning and memory, we are planning to selectively silence these neurons and examine how this manipulation impacts the formation of fear memory for a context associated with an aversive event.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: Multiple projections from single neurons seem to be a general feature of the neural circuits in the brain and could promote synchronized neural activity and long-term changes in the efficiency of neural communication. The experimental approaches used in our study can be used to examine other brain areas that project to multiple targets.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Woong Bin Kim, Jun-Hyeong Cho. Synaptic Targeting of Double-Projecting Ventral CA1 Hippocampal Neurons to the Medial Prefrontal Cortex and Basal Amygdala. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2017; 37 (19): 4868 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3579-16.2017
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Last Updated on May 21, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD