Limited efficacy of propranolol on the reconsolidation of fear memories

Elizaveta V. Muravieva, Cristina M. Alberini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous studies suggested that the β-adrenergic receptor antagonist propranolol might be a novel, potential treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This hypothesis stemmed mainly from rodent studies showing that propranolol interferes with the reconsolidation of Pavlovian fear conditioning (FC). However, subsequent investigations in humans have produced controversial evidence about the effect of propranolol on fear memories and an effect on PTSD symptomatology has yet to be reported. Thus, it remains to be established whether propranolol interferes with the reconsolidation of fear memories at large. To address this question, we tested the effect of systemic injections of propranolol administered before or after the retrieval of an inhibitory avoidance (IA) memory elicited with different footshock intensities. In parallel, the same treatment was tested on the reconsolidation of Pavlovian FC. Propranolol showed no effect on the reconsolidation of IA, although the pre-retrieval administration resulted in a significant retrieval impairment. This impairment was transient, and memory returned to control levels at later times. In agreement with previous studies, we found that systemic administration of propranolol disrupts the reconsolidation of Pavlovian FC and that its injection following a retrieval elicited by cue exposure also interferes with the reconsolidation of contextual FC. Hence, propranolol disrupts the reconsolidation of Pavlovian FC, but has no effect on the reconsolidation of IA. The results indicate that the efficacy of systemic administration of propranol in disrupting the reconsolidation of fear memories is limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-313
Number of pages8
JournalLearning and Memory
Volume17
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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