Neurons Are Recruited to a Memory Trace Based on Relative Neuronal Excitability Immediately before Training

Yiu AP, Mercaldo V, Yan C, Richards B, Rashid AJ, Hsiang HL, Pressey J, Mahadevan V, Tran MM, Kushner SA, Woodin MA, Frankland PW, Josselyn SA

Neuron 2014 Aug;83(3):722-35

PMID: 25102562


UNLABELLED: Memories are thought to be sparsely encoded in neuronal networks, but little is known about why a given neuron is recruited or allocated to a particular memory trace. Previous research shows that in the lateral amygdala (LA), neurons with increased CREB are selectively recruited to a fear memory trace. CREB is a ubiquitous transcription factor implicated in many cellular processes. Which process mediates neuronal memory allocation? One hypothesis is that CREB increases neuronal excitability to bias neuronal recruitment, although this has not been shown experimentally. Here we use several methods to increase neuronal excitability and show this both biases recruitment into the memory trace and enhances memory formation. Moreover, artificial activation of these neurons alone is a sufficient retrieval cue for fear memory expression, showing that these neurons are critical components of the memory trace. These results indicate that neuronal memory allocation is based on relative neuronal excitability immediately before training.