The role of glucocorticoids in emotional memory reconsolidation

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Glucocorticoids are secreted following exposure to stressful events. Their modulating role on memory reconsolidation, a post-retrieval process of re-stabilization, has been investigated only recently, at times with conflicting results. The goal of this review is twofold. First, to establish the modulating role of glucocorticoids on memory reconsolidation. Second, to point the potential factors and confounds that might explain the seemingly paradoxical findings. Here we review recent pharmacological studies, conducted in rodents and humans, which suggest a critical role of glucocorticoids in this post-retrieval process. In particular, the activation of glucocorticoid receptors in the amygdala and hippocampus is suggested to be involved in emotional memories reconsolidation, pointing to a similarity between post-retrieval reconsolidation and initial memory consolidation. In addition, based on the general reconsolidation literature, we suggest several factors that might play a role in determining the direction and strength of the reconsolidation effect following glucocorticoids treatment: memory-related factors, manipulation-related factors, and individual differences. We conclude that only when taking these additional factors into account can the paradox be resolved.

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