Covert capture and attenuation of a hippocampus-dependent fear memory. Academic Article uri icon


  • Reconsolidation may be a viable therapeutic target to inhibit pathological fear memories. In the clinic, incidental or imaginal reminders are used for safe retrieval of traumatic memories of experiences that occurred elsewhere. However, it is unknown whether indirectly retrieved traumatic memories are sensitive to disruption. Here we used a backward (BW) conditioning procedure to indirectly retrieve and manipulate a hippocampus (HPC)-dependent contextual fear engram in male rats. We show that conditioned freezing to a BW conditioned stimulus (CS) is mediated by fear to the conditioning context, activates HPC ensembles that can be covertly captured and chemogenetically activated to drive fear, and is impaired by post-retrieval protein synthesis inhibition. These results reveal that indirectly retrieved contextual fear memories reactivate HPC ensembles and undergo protein synthesis-dependent reconsolidation. Clinical interventions that rely on indirect retrieval of traumatic memories, such as imaginal exposure, may open a window for editing or erasure of neural representations that drive pathological fear.

published proceedings

  • Nat Neurosci

altmetric score

  • 194.88

author list (cited authors)

  • Ressler, R. L., Goode, T. D., Kim, S., Ramanathan, K. R., & Maren, S.

citation count

  • 14

complete list of authors

  • Ressler, Reed L||Goode, Travis D||Kim, Sohmee||Ramanathan, Karthik R||Maren, Stephen

publication date

  • May 2021