Role of the lateral habenula in memory through online processing of information

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Abstract

Our memory abilities, whether they involve short-term working memory or long-term episodic or procedural memories, are essential for our well-being, our capacity to adapt to constraints of our environment and survival. Therefore, several key brain regions and neurotransmitter systems are engaged in the processing of sensory information to either maintain such information in working memory so that it will quickly be used, and/or participate in the elaboration and storage of enduring traces useful for longer periods of time. Animal research has recently attracted attention on the lateral habenula which, as shown in rodents and non-human primates, seems to process information stemming in the main regions involved in memory processing, e.g., the medial prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, the amygdala, the septal region, the basal ganglia, and participates in the control of key memory-related neurotransmitters systems, i.e., dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine. Recently, the lateral habenula has been involved in working and spatial reference memories, in rodents, likely by participating in online processing of contextual information. In addition, several behavioral studies strongly suggest that it is also involved in the processing of the emotional valance of incoming information in order to adapt to particularly stressful situations. Therefore, the lateral habenula appears like a key region at the interface between cognition and emotion to participate in the selection of appropriate behaviors.

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