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Andreas Lüthi"Defining the neuronal circuitry of fear"

Abstract :

E
xperience-dependent changes in behavior are mediated by long-term functional modifications in brain circuits.
To study the underlying synaptic and cellular mechanisms, we are using classical (Pavlovian) fear conditioning, a simple form of associative learning that is particularly suitable to be studied in rodents. Behavioral and in vivo electrophysiological experiments suggest that associative synaptic plasticity in the lateral amygdala, a key structure for emotional learning and memory, underlies classical fear conditioning. These experiments established the strongest link between synaptic plasticity and behavioral learning described so far in mammals. Reversal of the conditioned fear response can be obtained if the conditioned stimulus is repeatedly presented alone, a phenomenon called fear extinction. This strategy is used clinically to treat anxiety disorders in humans. Behavioral studies in animals show that extinction is not simply the forgetting of previously learned fear, but rather an active learning process that creates an independent memory trace. The synaptic and cellular substrates underlying fear extinction are, however, not clear. Using a multidisciplinary and integrated experimental approach in mice, we are combining in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology, imaging, molecular biology, genetics, and behavioral techniques to identify the synaptic and cellular constituents of neural circuits in the amygdala underlying the acquisition, encoding and extinction of fear memory – the microcircuitry of fear conditioning.
2011 © FMI Basel Switzerland

Selected publications

Ehrlich I, Humeau Y, Grenier F, Ciocchi S, Herry C, Lüthi A (2009) Amygdala inhibitory circuits and the control of fear memory. Neuron 62:757-771

Fourcaudot E, Gambino F, Humeau Y, Casassus G, Poulain B, Lüthi A (2009) L-type voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels mediate expression of presynaptic LTP in amygdala. Nature Neurosci 12:1093-1095

Gogolla N, Caroni P, Lüthi A, Herry C (2009) Perineuronal nets protect fear memories from erasure.
Science 325:1258-1261
Tang W, Ehrlich I, Wolff SBE, Michalski AM, Wölfl S, Hasan MT, Lüthi A, Sprengel R (2009) Faithful expression of multiple proteins via 2A-peptide self-processing: A versatile and reliable method for manipulating brain circuits. J Neurosci 29:8621-8629

Yann Humeau et Cyril Herry