Memory formation requires the temporal coordination of molecular events and cellular processes following a learned event. During Pavlovian threat (fear) conditioning (PTC), sensory and neuromodulatory inputs converge on post-synaptic neurons within the lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA). By activating an intracellular cascade of signaling molecules, these G-protein-coupled neuromodulatory receptors are capable of recruiting a diverse profile of plasticity-related proteins. Here we report that norepinephrine, through its actions on β-adrenergic receptors (βARs), modulates aversive memory formation following PTC through two molecularly and temporally distinct signaling mechanisms. Specifically, using behavioral pharmacology and biochemistry in adult rats, we determined that βAR activity during, but not after PTC training initiates the activation of two plasticity-related targets: AMPA receptors (AMPARs) for memory acquisition and short-term memory and extracellular regulated kinase (ERK) for consolidating the learned association into a long-term memory. These findings reveal that βAR activity during, but not following PTC sets in motion cascading molecular events for the acquisition (AMPARs) and subsequent consolidation (ERK) of learned associations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health