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Neuronal Competition and Selection During Memory Formation

Science, 20 April 2007
Vol. 316, Issue 5823, p. 457-460
DOI: 10.1126/science.1139438

Neuronal Competition and Selection During Memory Formation

  1. Jin-Hee Han1,2,3,*,
  2. Steven A. Kushner4,5,6,*,
  3. Adelaide P. Yiu1,3,
  4. Christy J. Cole1,2,
  5. Anna Matynia4,
  6. Robert A. Brown4,
  7. Rachael L. Neve7,
  8. John F. Guzowski8,
  9. Alcino J. Silva4,
  10. Sheena A. Josselyn1,2,3,
  1. 1 Program in Neurosciences and Mental Health, Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X8, Canada.
  2. 2 Department of Physiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A8, Canada.
  3. 3 Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A8, Canada.
  4. 4 Departments of Neurobiology, Psychology, and Psychiatry, and Brain Research Institute, Gonda Building, 695 Young Drive South, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
  5. 5 Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.
  6. 6 New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY 10032, USA.
  7. 7 Molecular Neurogenetics Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA 02478, USA.
  8. 8 Neurobiology and Behavior, School of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.
  1. To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: sheena.josselyn{at}
  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.


Competition between neurons is necessary for refining neural circuits during development and may be important for selecting the neurons that participate in encoding memories in the adult brain. To examine neuronal competition during memory formation, we conducted experiments with mice in which we manipulated the function of CREB (adenosine 3′,5′-monophosphate response element–binding protein) in subsets of neurons. Changes in CREB function influenced the probability that individual lateral amygdala neurons were recruited into a fear memory trace. Our results suggest a competitive model underlying memory formation, in which eligible neurons are selected to participate in a memory trace as a function of their relative CREB activity at the time of learning.

    • Received for publication 3 January 2007.
    • Accepted for publication 20 March 2007.


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