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Associative memory stored by functional novel pathway rather than modifications of preexisting neuronal pathways

By Volko A. Straub, I. Kemenes, M. O'Shea and P. R. Benjamin

Abstract

Associative conditioning involves changes in the processing pathways activated by sensory information to link the conditioned stimulus (CS) to the conditioned behavior. Thus, conditioning can recruit neuronal elements to form new pathways for the processing of the CS and/or can change the strength of existing pathways. Using a behavioral and systems level electrophysiological approach on a tractable invertebrate circuit generating feeding in the mollusk Lymnaea stagnalis, we identified three independent pathways for the processing of the CS amyl acetate used in appetitive conditioning. Two of these pathways, one suppressing and the other stimulating feeding, mediate responses to the CS in naive animals. The effects of these two pathways on feeding behavior are unaltered by conditioning. In contrast, the CS response of a third stimulatory pathway is significantly enhanced after conditioning, becoming an important contributor to the overall CS response. This is unusual because, in most of the previous examples in which naive animals already respond to the CS, memory formation results from changes in the strength of pathways that mediate the existing response. Here, we show that, in the molluscan feeding system, both modified and unmodified pathways are activated in parallel by the CS after conditioning, and it is their integration that results in the conditioned response.Peer-reviewedPublisher Versio

Publisher: Society for Neuroscience
Year: 2006
DOI identifier: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0489-06.2006
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/1766
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