PROMEMO Research


Switching memory "on" and "off"

The idea that changes in synaptic strength (synaptic plasticity) is the foundation of memory and learning has a long history. For this reason long term potentiation (LTP) and long term depression (LTD), the electrophysiological manifestations of synaptic plasticity, have been intensely studied. However, the proof of causality, that by changing synaptic strength one can remove and reinstate a memory, had been missing.

In a recent paper, The Nabavi Lab provided the most direct evidence showing a cause-effect relation between synaptic plasticity and memory formation (Nabavi et al., 2014, Nature). With the use of optogenetics fortified by in vitro/in vivo recording and behavioral assays they generated an associative memory and showed that they could repeatedly turn off and on this associative memory simply by inducing LTD and LTP (see the figure).

a) Fear conditioning with optogenetics. Diagram of rat’s fear memory circuit receiving optogenetically driven input stimulation (laser) paired with a shock (left). Animal is tested one day later (right) by optical activation of the input (blue). Time plot shows normalized number of lever presses (1 min bins) to a previously learned cued lever-press task. b) LTD inactivates memory. In vivo field response in lateral amygdala to single optical stimulus (left) before and after LTD induction (1Hz). Animal is tested one day later (right). c) LTP reactivates memory. Same as b) except animal receives an LTP protocol (100Hz).