Mapping and decoding brain activity patterns underlying learning and memory represents both great interest and immense challenge. At present, very little is known regarding many of the very basic questions regarding the neural codes of memory: are fear memories retrieved during the freezing state or non-freezing state of the animals? How do individual memory traces give arise to a holistic, real-time associative memory engram? How are memory codes regulated by synaptic plasticity? Here, by applying high-density electrode arrays and dimensionality-reduction decoding algorithms, we investigate hippocampal CA1 activity patterns of trace fear conditioning memory code in inducible NMDA receptor knockout mice and their control littermates. Our analyses showed that the conditioned tone (CS) and unconditioned footshock (US) can evoke hippocampal ensemble responses in control and mutant mice. Yet, temporal formats and contents of CA1 fear memory engrams differ significantly between the genotypes. The mutant mice with disabled NMDA receptor plasticity failed to generate CS-to-US or US-to-CS associative memory traces. Moreover, the mutant CA1 region lacked memory traces for "what at when" information that predicts the timing relationship between the conditioned tone and the foot shock. The degraded associative fear memory engram is further manifested in its lack of intertwined and alternating temporal association between CS and US memory traces that are characteristic to the holistic memory recall in the wild-type animals. Therefore, our study has decoded real-time memory contents, timing relationship between CS and US, and temporal organizing patterns of fear memory engrams and demonstrated how hippocampal memory codes are regulated by NMDA receptor synaptic plasticity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)