Distinct Progressions of Neuronal Activity Changes Underlie the Formation and Consolidation of a Gustatory Associative Memory

Elor Arieli, Nadia Younis, Anan Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acquiring new memories is a multistage process. Numerous studies have convincingly demonstrated that initially acquired memories are labile and are stabilized only by later consolidation processes. These multiple phases of memory formation are known to involve modification of both cellular excitability and synaptic connectivity, which in turn change neuronal activity at both the single neuron and ensemble levels. However, the specific mapping between the known phases of memory and the changes in neuronal activity at different organizational levels-the single-neuron, population representations, and ensemble-state dynamics-remains unknown. Here we address this issue in the context of conditioned taste aversion learning by continuously tracking gustatory cortex neuronal taste responses in alert male and female rats during the 24 h following a taste-malaise pairing. We found that the progression of activity changes depends on the neuronal organizational level: whereas the population response changed continuously, the population mean response amplitude and the number of taste-responsive neurons only increased during the acquisition and consolidation phases. In addition, the known quickening of the ensemble-state dynamics associated with the faster rejection of harmful foods appeared only after consolidation. Overall, these results demonstrate how complex dynamics in the different representational levels of cortical activity underlie the formation and stabilization of memory within the cortex.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Memory formation is a multiphased process; early acquired memories are labile and consolidate to their stable forms over hours and days. The progression of memory is assumed to be supported by changes in neuronal activity, but the mapping between memory phases and neuronal activity changes remains elusive. Here we tracked cortical neuronal activity over 24 h as rats acquired and consolidated a taste-malaise association memory, and found specific differences between the progression at the single-neuron and populations levels. These results demonstrate how balanced changes on the single-neuron level lead to changes in the network-level representation and dynamics required for the stabilization of memories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-921
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2 Feb 2022


  • Consolidation
  • conditioned taste aversion
  • ensemble activity
  • learning
  • neuronal coding
  • neuronal dynamics


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