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Using New Approaches in Neurobiology to Rethink Stress-Induced Amnesia

  • Personality and Impulse Control Disorders (R Lee, Section Editor)
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Abstract

Purpose of Review

Psychological stress can impact memory systems in several different ways. In individuals with healthy defense and coping systems, stress results in the formation of negatively valenced memories whose ability to induce emotional and somatic distress subsides with time. Vulnerable individuals, however, go on to develop stress-related disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suffer from significant memory abnormalities. Whether expressed as intrusive trauma memories, partial amnesia, or dissociative amnesia, such abnormalities are thought to be the core source of patients’ symptoms, which are often debilitating and implicate an entire socio-cognitive-affective spectrum.

Recent Findings

With this in mind, and focusing on stress-responsive hippocampal microcircuits, this article highlights recent advances in the neurobiology of memory that allow us to (1) isolate and visualize memory circuits, (2) change their activity using genetic tools and state-dependent manipulations, and (3) directly examine their impact on socio-affective circuits and global network connectivity. By integrating these approaches, we are now in a position to address important questions that have troubled psychiatry for a long time—questions such as are traumatic memories special, and why are stress effects on memory diverse.

Summary

Furthering our fundamental understanding of memory in the framework of adaptive and maladaptive stress responses has the potential to boost the development of new treatments that can benefit patients suffering from psychological trauma.

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Correspondence to Jelena Radulovic.

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The work of Dr. Radulovic is supported by research grants from NIMH (MH078064 and MH108837).

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Personality and Impulse Control Disorder

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Radulovic, J. Using New Approaches in Neurobiology to Rethink Stress-Induced Amnesia. Curr Behav Neurosci Rep 4, 49–58 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40473-017-0109-6

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