Temporally-precise basolateral amygdala activation is required for the formation of taste memories in gustatory cortex

Elor Arieli, Ron Gerbi, Mark Shein-Idelson, Anan Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Key points: The basolateral amygdala (BLA), the nucleus basalis magnocellularis (NBM), and the gustatory cortex (GC) are involved in taste processing, taste memory formation and conditioned taste aversion (CTA) learning, but their fine-temporal interactions that support these cognitive functions are not well understood. We found that the formation of novel-taste and CTA memories in the GC depend on a distinct late response (700–3000 ms) of BLA projection neurons. In contrast, BLA activity was not essential for palatability-related behaviour and coding in the GC prior to CTA. We identified the BLA→NBM pathway as a potential pathway for the transmission of taste novelty information, required for the formation of taste and CTA memories in the GC. Our results demonstrate how neuronal dynamics across multiple brain regions support long-term memory formation. Abstract: Learning to associate malaise with the intake of novel food is critical for survival. Since food poisoning may take hours to take effect, animals developed brain circuits to transform the current novel taste experience into a taste memory trace (TMT) and bridge this time lag. Ample studies showed that the basolateral amygdala (BLA), the nucleus basalis magnocellularis (NBM) and the gustatory cortex (GC) are involved in TMT formation and taste–malaise association. However, how dynamic activity across these brain regions during novel taste experience promotes the formation of these memories is currently unknown. We used the conditioned taste aversion (CTA) learning paradigm in combination with short-term optogenetics and electrophysiological recording in rats to test the hypothesis that temporally specific activation of BLA projection neurons is essential for TMT formation in the GC, and consequently CTA. We found that a short late epoch (LE, 700–3000 ms), but not the early epoch (EE, 0–500 ms), of BLA activation during novel taste experience is essential for normal CTA, for early c-Fos expression in the GC (a marker of TMT formation) and for the post-CTA changes in GC ensemble palatability coding. Interestingly, BLA activity was not required for intact taste identity or palatability perceptions before CTA. We further show that BLA-LE information is transmitted to GC through the BLA→NBM pathway where it affects the formation of taste memories. These results expose the dependence of long-term memory formation on specific temporal windows during sensory responses and the distributed circuits supporting this dependence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5505-5522
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Physiology
Volume598
Issue number23
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • basolateral amygdala
  • conditioned taste aversion
  • neuronal dynamics
  • taste memory
  • taste system

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