Protein synthesis in the basolateral amygdala complex is required for consolidation of a first-order fear memory, but not for consolidation of a higher-order fear memory


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Abstract

HIGHLIGHTSConsolidation of 1st-order conditioned fear DOES require protein synthesis in the BLA.Consolidation of higher-order conditioned fear DOES NOT.The latter results from pre-training of the 1st-order stimulus.The present series of experiments pursued our recent findings that consolidation of a second-order fear memory requires neuronal activity, but not de novo protein synthesis, in the basolateral amygdala complex (BLA). It used a modified second-order conditioning protocol in which rats were exposed to S1-shock pairings in stage 1 and pairings of the serial S2-S1 compound and shock in stage 2. Experiment 1 showed that responding (freezing) to S2 in this protocol is conditional on its compounding with S1 in stage 2 (Experiment 1), and therefore, the result of associative formation. The remaining experiments then showed that the protein synthesis requirement for consolidation of new learning about S2 varied with the training afforded S1. When S1 was trained in stage 1 and present in stage 2, consolidation of the new S2 fear memory was unaffected by pre- or post-stage 2 infusions of the protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide, into the BLA (Experiments 2 and 5). This result was observed independently of the number of S1-shock pairings in stage 1 (even a single pairing produced the result), and alongside demonstrations that cycloheximide infusions disrupt consolidation of a first-order fear memory (Experiments 2 and 5). However, when S1 was not conditioned in stage 1 (Experiment 3) or was omitted from conditioning in stage 2 (Experiment 4), consolidation of the new S2 fear memory was disrupted by post-stage 2 cycloheximide infusions into the BLA. These results were taken to imply that the consolidation of a higher-order fear memory exploits molecular events associated with consolidation of a reactivated first-order fear memory; hence it occurs independently of de novo protein synthesis in the BLA. Alternatively, the nature of the association formed in higher-order conditioning may be such as to not require de novo protein synthesis for its consolidation.

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