Optogenetic stimulation of a hippocampal engram activates fear memory recall.
ABSTRACT: A specific memory is thought to be encoded by a sparse population of neurons. These neurons can be tagged during learning for subsequent identification and manipulation. Moreover, their ablation or inactivation results in reduced memory expression, suggesting their necessity in mnemonic processes. However, the question of sufficiency remains: it is unclear whether it is possible to elicit the behavioural output of a specific memory by directly activating a population of neurons that was active during learning. Here we show in mice that optogenetic reactivation of hippocampal neurons activated during fear conditioning is sufficient to induce freezing behaviour. We labelled a population of hippocampal dentate gyrus neurons activated during fear learning with channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) and later optically reactivated these neurons in a different context. The mice showed increased freezing only upon light stimulation, indicating light-induced fear memory recall. This freezing was not detected in non-fear-conditioned mice expressing ChR2 in a similar proportion of cells, nor in fear-conditioned mice with cells labelled by enhanced yellow fluorescent protein instead of ChR2. Finally, activation of cells labelled in a context not associated with fear did not evoke freezing in mice that were previously fear conditioned in a different context, suggesting that light-induced fear memory recall is context specific. Together, our findings indicate that activating a sparse but specific ensemble of hippocampal neurons that contribute to a memory engram is sufficient for the recall of that memory. Moreover, our experimental approach offers a general method of mapping cellular populations bearing memory engrams.
Project description:Grape-derived polyphenols have been investigated for their role in promoting memory in model systems of stress, but little is known about select subpopulations of neurons that are influenced by polyphenols to improve memory performance. Granule neurons in the hippocampal dentate gyrus are vulnerable to stressors that impair contextual memory function and can be influenced by dietary polyphenols. We utilized a c-fos-tTA/TRE-ChR2 optogenetics model in which neurons activated during fear learning are labeled with ChR2-mCherry and can be optically reactivated in a different context to recapitulate the behavioral output of a related memory. Treatment with dietary polyphenols increased fear memory recall and ChR2-mCherry expression in dentate gyrus neurons, suggesting that dietary polyphenols promote recruitment of neurons to a fear memory engram. We show that dietary polyphenols promote memory function and offer a general method to map cellular subpopulations influenced by dietary polyphenols, in part through the mechanism of c-Fos expression enhancement.
Project description:Previous gain-of-function studies using an optogenetic technique showed that manipulation of the hippocampal dentate gyrus or CA1 cell ensembles is important for memory reactivation and to generate synthetic or false memory. However, gain-of-function study manipulating CA3 cell ensembles has not been reported. The CA3 area of the hippocampus comprises a recurrent excitatory circuit, which is thought to be important for the generation of associations among the stored information within one brain region. We investigated whether the coincident firing of cell ensembles in one brain region, hippocampal CA3, associates distinct events. CA3 cell ensembles responding to context exploration and during contextual fear conditioning were labeled with channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2)-mCherry. The synchronous activation of these ensembles induced freezing behavior in mice in a neutral context, in which a foot shock had never been delivered. The recall of this artificial associative fear memory was context specific. In vivo electrophysiological recordings showed that 20-Hz optical stimulation of ChR2-mCherry-expressing CA3 neurons, which is the same stimulation protocol used in behavioral experiment, induced long-term potentiation at CA3-CA3 synapses. Altogether, these results demonstrate that the synchronous activation of ensembles in one brain region, CA3 of the hippocampus, is sufficient for the association of distinct events. The results of our electrophysiology potentially suggest that this artificial association of memory events might be induced by the strengthening of synaptic efficacy between CA3 ensembles via recurrent circuit.
Project description:The hippocampus contains one of the few neurogenic niches within the adult brain-the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus. The functional significance of adult-born neurons in this region has been characterized using context fear conditioning, a Pavlovian paradigm in which animals learn to associate a location with danger. Ablation or silencing of adult-born neurons impairs both acquisition and recall of contextual fear conditioning, suggesting that these neurons contribute importantly to hippocampal memory. Lesion studies indicate that CFC depends on neural activity in both the dorsal and ventral hippocampus, subregions with unique extrahippocampal connectivity and behavioral functions. Because most studies of adult neurogenesis have relied on methods that permanently ablate neurogenesis throughout the entire hippocampus, little is known about how the function of adult-born neurons varies along the dorsal-ventral axis. Using a Nestin-CreERT2 mouse line to target the optogenetic silencer Archaerhodopsin to adult-born neurons, we compared the contribution of dorsal and ventral adult-born neurons to acquisition, recall, and generalization of CFC. Acquisition of CFC was impaired when either dorsal or ventral adult-born neurons were silenced during training. Silencing dorsal or ventral adult-born neurons during test sessions decreased context-evoked freezing but did not impair freezing in a hippocampus-independent tone-shock freezing paradigm. Silencing adult-born neurons modestly reduced generalization of fear. Our data indicate that adult-born neurons in the dorsal and ventral hippocampus contribute to both memory acquisition and recall. The comparatively large behavioral effects of silencing a small number of adult-born neurons suggest that these neurons make a unique and powerful contribution to hippocampal function.
Project description:Anxiety, trauma and stress-related disorders are often characterized by a loss of context-appropriate emotional responding. The contextual retrieval of emotional memory involves hippocampal projections to the medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala; however the relative contribution of these projections is unclear. To address this question, we characterized retrieval-induced Fos expression in ventral hippocampal (VH) neurons projecting to the prelimbic cortex (PL) and basal amygdala (BA) after the extinction of conditioned fear in rats. After extinction, freezing behavior (an index of learned fear) to the auditory conditioned stimulus was suppressed in the extinction context, but was "renewed" in another context. Hippocampal neurons projecting to either PL or BA exhibited similar degrees of context-dependent Fos expression; there were more Fos-positive neurons in each area after the renewal, as opposed, to suppression of fear. Importantly, however, VH neurons projecting to both PL and BA were more likely to express Fos during fear renewal than neurons projecting to either PL or BA alone. These data suggest that although projections from the hippocampus to PL and BA are similarly involved in the contextual retrieval of emotional memories, VH neurons with collaterals to both areas may be particularly important for synchronizing prefrontal-amygdala circuits during fear renewal.
Project description:Theta oscillations are considered crucial mechanisms in neuronal communication across brain areas, required for consolidation and retrieval of fear memories. One form of inhibitory learning allowing adaptive control of fear memory is extinction, a deficit of which leads to maladaptive fear expression potentially leading to anxiety disorders. Behavioral responses after extinction training are thought to reflect a balance of recall from extinction memory and initial fear memory traces. Therefore, we hypothesized that the initial fear memory circuits impact behavioral fear after extinction, and more specifically, that the dynamics of theta synchrony in these pathways signal the individual fear response. Simultaneous multi-channel local field and unit recordings were obtained from the infralimbic prefrontal cortex, the hippocampal CA1 and the lateral amygdala in mice. Data revealed that the pattern of theta coherence and directionality within and across regions correlated with individual behavioral responses. Upon conditioned freezing, units were phase-locked to synchronized theta oscillations in these pathways, characterizing states of fear memory retrieval. When the conditioned stimulus evoked no fear during extinction recall, theta interactions were directional with prefrontal cortical spike firing leading hippocampal and amygdalar theta oscillations. These results indicate that the directional dynamics of theta-entrained activity across these areas guide changes in appraisal of threatening stimuli during fear memory and extinction retrieval. Given that exposure therapy involves procedures and pathways similar to those during extinction of conditioned fear, one therapeutical extension might be useful that imposes artificial theta activity to prefrontal cortical-amygdalo-hippocampal pathways that mimics the directionality signaling successful extinction recall.
Project description:In fear extinction, an animal learns that a conditioned stimulus (CS) no longer predicts a noxious stimulus [unconditioned stimulus (UCS)] to which it had previously been associated, leading to inhibition of the conditioned response (CR). Extinction creates a new CS-noUCS memory trace, competing with the initial fear (CS-UCS) memory. Recall of extinction memory and, hence, CR inhibition at later CS encounters is facilitated by contextual stimuli present during extinction training. In line with theoretical predictions derived from animal studies, we show that, after extinction, a CS-evoked engagement of human ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) and hippocampus is context dependent, being expressed in an extinction, but not a conditioning, context. Likewise, a positive correlation between VMPFC and hippocampal activity is extinction context dependent. Thus, a VMPFC-hippocampal network provides for context-dependent recall of human extinction memory, consistent with a view that hippocampus confers context dependence on VMPFC.
Project description:Memory is thought to be encoded by sparsely distributed neuronal ensembles in memory-related regions. However, it is unclear how memory-eligible neurons react during learning to encode trace fear memory and how they retrieve a memory. We implemented a fiber-optic confocal fluorescence endomicroscope to directly visualize calcium dynamics of hippocampal CA1 neurons in freely behaving mice subjected to trace fear conditioning. Here we report that the overall activity levels of CA1 neurons showed a right-skewed lognormal distribution, with a small portion of highly active neurons (termed Primed Neurons) filling the long-tail. Repetitive training induced Primed Neurons to shift from random activity to well-tuned synchronization. The emergence of activity synchronization coincided with the appearance of mouse freezing behaviors. In recall, a partial synchronization among the same subset of Primed Neurons was induced from random dynamics, which also coincided with mouse freezing behaviors. Additionally, training-induced synchronization facilitated robust calcium entry into Primed Neurons. In contrast, most CA1 neurons did not respond to tone and foot shock throughout the training and recall cycles. In conclusion, Primed Neurons are preferably recruited to encode trace fear memory and induction of activity synchronization among Primed Neurons out of random dynamics is critical for trace memory formation and retrieval.
Project description:Activity of hippocampal pyramidal cells is critical for certain forms of learning and memory, and work from our lab and others has shown that CA2 neuronal activity is required for social cognition and behavior. Silencing of CA2 neurons in mice impairs social memory, and mice lacking Regulator of G-Protein Signaling 14 (RGS14), a protein that is highly enriched in CA2 neurons, learn faster than wild types in the Morris water maze spatial memory test. Although the enhanced spatial learning abilities of the RGS14 KO mice suggest a role for CA2 neurons in at least one hippocampus-dependent behavior, the role of CA2 neurons in fear conditioning, which requires activity of hippocampus, amygdala, and possibly prefrontal cortex is unknown. In this study, we expressed excitatory or inhibitory DREADDs in CA2 neurons and administered CNO before the shock-tone-context pairing. On subsequent days, we measured freezing behavior in the same context but without the tone (contextual fear) or in a new context but in the presence of the tone (cued fear). We found that increasing CA2 neuronal activity with excitatory DREADDs during training resulted in increased freezing during the cued fear tests in males and females. Surprisingly, we found that only females showed increased freezing during the contextual fear memory tests. Using inhibitory DREADDs, we found that inhibiting CA2 neuronal activity during the training phase also resulted in increased freezing in females during the subsequent contextual fear memory test. Finally, we tested fear conditioning in RGS14 KO mice and found that female KO mice had increased freezing on the cued fear memory test. These three separate lines of evidence suggest that CA2 neurons are actively involved in both intra- and extra-hippocampal brain processes and function to influence fear memory. Finally, the intriguing and consistent findings of enhanced fear conditioning only among females is strongly suggestive of a sexual dimorphism in CA2-linked circuits.
Project description:Mapping and decoding brain activity patterns underlying learning and memory represents both great interest and immense challenge. At present, very little is known regarding many of the very basic questions regarding the neural codes of memory: are fear memories retrieved during the freezing state or non-freezing state of the animals? How do individual memory traces give arise to a holistic, real-time associative memory engram? How are memory codes regulated by synaptic plasticity? Here, by applying high-density electrode arrays and dimensionality-reduction decoding algorithms, we investigate hippocampal CA1 activity patterns of trace fear conditioning memory code in inducible NMDA receptor knockout mice and their control littermates. Our analyses showed that the conditioned tone (CS) and unconditioned foot-shock (US) can evoke hippocampal ensemble responses in control and mutant mice. Yet, temporal formats and contents of CA1 fear memory engrams differ significantly between the genotypes. The mutant mice with disabled NMDA receptor plasticity failed to generate CS-to-US or US-to-CS associative memory traces. Moreover, the mutant CA1 region lacked memory traces for "what at when" information that predicts the timing relationship between the conditioned tone and the foot shock. The degraded associative fear memory engram is further manifested in its lack of intertwined and alternating temporal association between CS and US memory traces that are characteristic to the holistic memory recall in the wild-type animals. Therefore, our study has decoded real-time memory contents, timing relationship between CS and US, and temporal organizing patterns of fear memory engrams and demonstrated how hippocampal memory codes are regulated by NMDA receptor synaptic plasticity.
Project description:Extinction learning refers to the phenomenon that a previously learned response to an environmental stimulus, for example the expression of an aversive behavior upon exposure to a specific context, is reduced when the stimulus is repeatedly presented in the absence of a previously paired aversive event. Extinction of fear memories has been implicated with the treatment of anxiety disease but the molecular processes that underlie fear extinctionare only beginning to emerge. Here we show that fear extinction initiates up-regulation of hippocampal insulin-growth factor 2 (Igf2) and down-regulation of insulin-growth factor binding protein 7 (Igfbp7). In line with this observation we demonstrate that IGF2 facilitates fear extinction, while IGFBP7 impairs fear extinction in an IGF2-dependent manner. Furthermore, we identify one cellular substrate of altered IGF2-signaling during fear extinction. To this end we show that fear extinction-induced IGF2/IGFBP7-signaling promotes the survival of 17-19 day-old newborn hippocampal neurons. In conclusion, our data suggests that therapeutic strategies that enhance IGF2-signaling and adult neurogenesis might be suitable to treat disease linked to excessive fear memory. We employed mice to investigate fear extinction in the hippocampus-dependent contextual fear conditioning paradigm. To this end, male C57BL/6J mice were exposed to the fear conditioning box (context) followed by an electric foot-shock which elicits the acquisition of conditioned contextual fear. For extinction training animals were repeatedly reexposed to the conditioned context on consecutive days (24h interval) without receiving the footshockagain (extinction trial, E). This procedure eventually results in the decline of the aversive freezing behavior. Mice that were exposed to the conditioning context without receiving fear conditioning training served as control groups. To gain a better understanding of the molecular processes underlying fear extinction we performed a genome-wide analysis of the hippocampal transcriptome during fear extinction. In the employed paradigm fear extinction is a gradual process. To capture the longitudinal course of fear extinction we decided to perform hippocampal microarray analysis at two time points: (1) After the first extinction trial (E1) when animals display high levels of aversive freezing behavior and (2) at the extinction trial on which the freezing behavior was significantly reduced when compared to E1. This extinction trial, in the case of this experiment E5, we termed “extinction trial low freezing” (ELF). Mice that were exposed to the conditioning context without receiving fear conditioning training served as control groups (3). For all three groups we hybridized 5 samples (biological replicates).