Calcium-Permeable AMPA Receptor Dynamics Mediate Fear Memory Erasure

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Science  28 Oct 2010:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1195298


Traumatic fear memories can be inhibited by behavioral therapy or extinction training in rodent models, but are prone to relapse. Under some conditions, however, these treatments generate a permanent effect on behavior suggesting emotional memory erasure. The neural basis for such disparate outcomes is unknown. We found that a central component of extinction-induced erasure is the synaptic removal of calcium-permeable α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate receptors (AMPARs) in the lateral amygdala. A transient upregulation of this form of plasticity, which involves phosphorylation of the glutamate receptor 1 subunit of the AMPA receptor, defines a temporal window in which fear memory can be degraded by behavioral experience. These results provide a molecular mechanism for fear erasure and the relative instability of recent memory.