May 18, 2021

Basal forebrain cholinergic neurons are part of the threat memory engram

<p>Although the engagement of cholinergic signaling in threat memory is well established (Knox, 2016a), our finding that specific cholinergic neurons are requisite partners in a threat memory engram is likely to surprise many. Neurons of the basal forebrain nucleus basalis and substantia innonimata (NBM/SIp) comprise the major source of cholinergic input to the basolateral amygdala (BLA), whose activation are required for both the acquisition and retrieval of cued threat memory and innate threat response behavior. The retrieval of threat memory by the presentation of the conditioning tone alone elicits acetylcholine (ACh) release in the BLA and the BLA-projecting cholinergic neurons manifest immediate early gene responses and display increased intrinsic excitability for 2-5 hours following the cue-elicited memory response to the conditioned stimulus. Silencing cue-associated engram-enrolled cholinergic neurons prevents the expression of the defensive response and the subset of cholinergic neurons activated by cue is distinct from those engaged by innate threat. Taken together we find that distinct populations of cholinergic neurons are recruited to signal distinct aversive stimuli via the BLA, demonstrating exquisite, functionally refined organization of specific types of memory within the cholinergic basal forebrain.</p>
<p> bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience</p>
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