Monday, June 25, 2007

New steps in memory consolidation

Paz et al show how the hippocampal-medial prefrontal cortex interactions thought to support memory consolidation are enhanced by correlated activities in regions around the hippocampus. Their introduction gives a quick summary of known steps in memory consolidation which provides context for their experiment, here are some edited clips:
The hippocampus plays a time-limited role in the formation of declarative memories, with memories gradually becoming independent of the hippocampus over time. It is believed that these remote memories are gradually transferred from the hippocampus to the neocortex for long-term storage..investigations indicate that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is critical for the consolidation of hippocampal-dependent memories. In trace-conditioning tasks for instance, hippocampal lesions cause a severe deficit when made soon after training, but not after a month, whereas mPFC lesions produce the opposite pattern of impairments. ...The role of mPFC activity in memory formation remains unclear. One possibility is that mPFC affects the transfer of hippocampal activity toward the neocortex. Consistent with this possibility, the mPFC projects to the rhinal cortices, the main route for impulse traffic into and out of the hippocampus...the present study was undertaken to test the idea that the mPFC influences memory formation by modulating interactions between the neocortex and hippocampus at the level of the rhinal cortices. To this end, we examined the relative timing of unit activity in the mPFC, PR, and ER cortices during the acquisition of a trace-conditioning task.
And, here is the abstract of the paper:
Much data suggests that hippocampal–medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) interactions support memory consolidation. This process is thought to involve the gradual transfer of transient hippocampal-dependent memories to distributed neocortical sites for long-term storage. However, hippocampal projections to the neocortex involve a multisynaptic pathway that sequentially progresses through the entorhinal and perirhinal regions before reaching the neocortex. Similarly, the mPFC influences the hippocampus via the rhinal cortices, suggesting that the rhinal cortices occupy a strategic position in this network. The present study thus tested the idea that the mPFC supports memory by facilitating the transfer of hippocampal activity to the neocortex via an enhancement of entorhinal to perirhinal communication. To this end, we simultaneously recorded mPFC, perirhinal, and entorhinal neurons during the acquisition of a trace-conditioning task in which a visual conditioned stimulus (CS) was followed by a delay period after which a liquid reward was administered. At learning onset, correlated perirhinal-entorhinal firing increased in relation to mPFC activity, but with no preferential directionality, and only after reward delivery. However, as learning progressed across days, mPFC activity gradually enhanced rhinal correlations in relation to the CS as well, and did so in a specific direction: from entorhinal to perirhinal neurons. This suggests that, at late stages of learning, mPFC activity facilitates entorhinal to perirhinal communication. Because this connection is a necessary step for the transfer of hippocampal activity to the neocortex, our results suggest that the mPFC is involved in the slow iterative process supporting the integration of hippocampal-dependent memories into neocortical networks.

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