Editors' ChoiceNeuroscience

Listen, Learn, Freeze

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Science's STKE  05 Apr 2005:
Vol. 2005, Issue 278, pp. tw129
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2782005tw129

Rats and mice learn to freeze when they hear a tone previously encountered at the same time as an electric shock. This type of learning takes place in the amygdala. Rumpel et al. examined the cellular basis of the learning by tagging the glutamate receptors that are recruited into synapses during learning with a subunit that can be detected electrophysiologically. They found that fear conditioning drives these receptors into synapses in about 35% of the cells in the lateral amygdala. Inhibition of this recruitment inhibits the formation of the tone-shock memory. If only 10 to 20% of the synapses are inactivated, learning is blocked. Thus, synaptic modification is required for behavioral learning, which is unexpectedly sensitive to the loss of a small fraction of modified synapses.

S. Rumpel, J. LeDoux, A. Zador, R. Malinow, Postsynaptic receptor trafficking underlying a form of associative learning. Science 308, 83-88 (2005). [Abstract] [Full Text]

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