Reactivating hippocampal-mediated memories during reconsolidation to disrupt fear


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The hippocampus is a brain region critically involved in memory. In this study, the authors demonstrate that reactivating hippocampal neurons associated with positive memories can disrupt a fear response in mice. Memories are stored in the brain as cellular ensembles activated during learning and reactivated during retrieval. Using the Tet-tag system in mice, we label dorsal dentate gyrus neurons activated by positive, neutral or negative experiences with channelrhodopsin-2. Following fear-conditioning, these cells are artificially reactivated during fear memory recall. Optical stimulation of a competing positive memory is sufficient to update the memory during reconsolidation, thereby reducing conditioned fear acutely and enduringly. Moreover, mice demonstrate operant responding for reactivation of a positive memory, confirming its rewarding properties. These results show that interference from a rewarding experience can counteract negative affective states. While memory-updating, induced by memory reactivation, involves a relatively small set of neurons, we also find that activating a large population of randomly labeled dorsal dentate gyrus neurons is effective in promoting reconsolidation. Importantly, memory-updating is specific to the fear memory. These findings implicate the dorsal dentate gyrus as a potential therapeutic node for modulating memories to suppress fear.
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