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Competition between engrams influences fear memory formation and recall

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Collections of cells called engrams are thought to represent memories. Although there has been progress in identifying and manipulating single engrams, little is known about how multiple engrams interact to influence memory. In lateral amygdala (LA), neurons with increased excitability during training outcompete their neighbors for allocation to an engram. We examined whether competition based on neuronal excitability also governs the interaction between engrams. Mice received two distinct fear conditioning events separated by different intervals. LA neuron excitability was optogenetically manipulated and revealed a transient competitive process that integratesmemories for events occurring closely in time (coallocating overlapping populations of neurons to both engrams) and separates memories for events occurring at distal times (disallocating nonoverlapping populations to each engram).




Rashid, A. J., Yan, C., Mercaldo, V., Hsiang, H. L., Park, S., Cole, C. J., … Josselyn, S. A. (2016). Competition between engrams influences fear memory formation and recall. Science, 353(6297), 383–387.

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