Overlapping memory trace indispensable for linking, but not recalling, individual memories

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Science  27 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6323, pp. 398-403
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal2690

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Unrelated memories get blurred together

If one retrieves two memories around the same time, a small number of neurons will become involved in both memories. Yokose et al. investigated the cellular ensemble mechanisms underlying the association between two such memories. In mice, a small population of neurons mediates the association. Memory traces for two independent emotional memories in the brain partially overlapped when the two memories were retrieved synchronously to create a linkage. Suppressing the activity of the overlapping memory trace interrupted the linkage without damaging the original memories.

Science, this issue p. 398


Memories are not stored in isolation from other memories but are integrated into associative networks. However, the mechanisms underlying memory association remain elusive. Using two amygdala-dependent behavioral paradigms—conditioned taste aversion (CTA) and auditory-cued fear conditioning (AFC)—in mice, we found that presenting the conditioned stimulus used for the CTA task triggered the conditioned response of the AFC task after natural coreactivation of the memories. This was accompanied through an increase in the overlapping neuronal ensemble in the basolateral amygdala. Silencing of the overlapping ensemble suppressed CTA retrieval-induced freezing. However, retrieval of the original CTA or AFC memory was not affected. A small population of coshared neurons thus mediates the link between memories. They are not necessary for recalling individual memories.

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