Emotionally arousing experiences are better remembered than neutral ones, highlighting that memory consolidation differentially promotes retention of experiences depending on their survival value. This paper reviews evidence indicating that the basolateral amygdala (BLA) mediates the facilitating influence of emotions on memory through multiple mechanisms. Emotionally arousing events, in part by triggering the release of stress hormones, cause a long-lasting enhancement in the firing rate and synchrony of BLA neurons. BLA oscillations, particularly gamma, play an important role in synchronizing the activity of BLA neurons. In addition, BLA synapses are endowed with a unique property, an elevated post-synaptic expression of NMDA receptors. As a result, the synchronized gamma-related recruitment of BLA neurons facilitates synaptic plasticity at other inputs converging on the same target neurons. Given that emotional experiences are spontaneously remembered during wake and sleep, and that REM sleep is favorable to the consolidation of emotional memories, we propose a synthesis for the various lines of evidence mentioned above: gamma-related synchronized firing of BLA cells potentiates synapses between cortical neurons that were recruited during an emotional experience, either by tagging these cells for subsequent reactivation or by enhancing the effects of reactivation itself.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience