Memory accuracy predicts hippocampal mTOR pathway activation following retrieval of contextual fear memory

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Prior work suggests that hippocampus-dependent memory undergoes a systems consolidation process such that recent memories are stored in the hippocampus, while older memories are independent of the hippocampus and instead dependent on cortical areas. One problem with interpreting these studies is that memory for the contextual stimuli weakens as time passes between the training event and testing and older memories are often less detailed, making it difficult to determine if memory storage in the hippocampus is related to the age or to the accuracy of the memory. Activity of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway is known to be important for controlling protein translation necessary for both memory consolidation after initial learning and for the reconsolidation of memory after retrieval. We tested whether p70s6 kinase (p70s6K), a key component of the mTOR signaling pathway, is activated following retrieval of context fear memory in the dorsal hippocampus (DH) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) at 1, 10, or 36 days after context fear conditioning. We also tested whether strengthening memory for the contextual stimuli changed p70s6K phosphorylation in these structures 36 days after training. We show that under standard training conditions retrieval of a recently formed memory is initially precise and involves the DH. Over time it loses detail, becomes independent of the DH and depends on the ACC. In a subsequent experiment, we preserved the accuracy of older memories through pre-exposure to the training context. We show that remote memory still involved the DH in animals given pre-exposure. These data support the notion that detailed memories depend on the DH regardless of their age. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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