Calcium-permeable AMPA receptor dynamics mediate fear memory erasure

Traumatic fear memories can be inhibited by behavioral therapy for humans, or by extinction training in rodent models, but are prone to recur. Under some conditions, however, these treatments generate a permanent effect on behavior, which suggests that emotional memory erasure has occurred. The neural basis for such disparate outcomes is unknown. We found that a central component of extinction-induced erasure is the synaptic removal of calcium-permeable ?-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate receptors (AMPARs) in the lateral amygdala. A transient up-regulation of this form of plasticity, which involves phosphorylation of the glutamate receptor 1 subunit of the AMPA receptor, defines a temporal window in which fear memory can be degraded by behavioral experience. These results reveal a molecular mechanism for fear erasure and the relative instability of recent memory.

Dr. Richard Huganir's lab