Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience

Differential activation of amygdala, dorsal and ventral hippocampus following an exposure to a reminder of underwater trauma.

PMID 24523683


Recollection of emotional memories is attributed in part to the activation of the amygdala and the hippocampus. Recent hypothesis suggests a pivotal role for the ventral hippocampus (VH) in traumatic stress processing and emotional memory retrieval. Persistent re-experiencing and intrusive recollections are core symptoms in acute and posttraumatic stress disorders (ASD; PTSD). Such intrusive recollections are often triggered by reminders associated with the trauma. We examined the impact of exposure to a trauma reminder (under water trauma (UWT)) on the activation of the basolateral amygdala (BLA), dorsal and VH. Rats were exposed to UWT and 24 h later were re-exposed to the context of the trauma. Phosphorylation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) was used as a marker for level of activation of these regions. Significant increase in ERK activation was found in the VH and BLA. Such pattern of activation was not found in animals exposed only to the trauma or in animals exposed only to the trauma reminder. Additionally, the dissociative pattern of activation of the VH sub-regions positively correlated with the activation of the BLA. Our findings suggest a specific pattern of neural activation during recollection of a trauma reminder, with a unique contribution of the VH. Measured 24 h after the exposure to the traumatic experience, the current findings relate to relatively early stages of traumatic memory consolidation. Understanding the neural mechanisms underlying these initial stages may contribute to developing intervention strategies that could reduce the risk of eventually developing PTSD.

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