Translational Neuropsychopharmacology

Volume 28 of the series Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences pp 197-230

Translational Approaches Targeting Reconsolidation

  • Marijn C. W. KroesAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Centre for Neural Science, New York University
  • , Daniela SchillerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Department of Neuroscience, Friedman Brain Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Email author 
  • , Joseph E. LeDouxAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Centre for Neural Science, New York UniversityNathan Kline Institute
  • , Elizabeth A. PhelpsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Centre for Neural Science, New York UniversityNathan Kline Institute

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Maladaptive learned responses and memories contribute to psychiatric disorders that constitute a significant socio-economic burden. Primary treatment methods teach patients to inhibit maladaptive responses, but do not get rid of the memory itself, which explains why many patients experience a return of symptoms even after initially successful treatment. This highlights the need to discover more persistent and robust techniques to diminish maladaptive learned behaviours. One potentially promising approach is to alter the original memory, as opposed to inhibiting it, by targeting memory reconsolidation. Recent research shows that reactivating an old memory results in a period of memory flexibility and requires restorage, or reconsolidation, for the memory to persist. This reconsolidation period allows a window for modification of a specific old memory. Renewal of memory flexibility following reactivation holds great clinical potential as it enables targeting reconsolidation and changing of specific learned responses and memories that contribute to maladaptive mental states and behaviours. Here, we will review translational research on non-human animals, healthy human subjects, and clinical populations aimed at altering memories by targeting reconsolidation using biological treatments (electrical stimulation, noradrenergic antagonists) or behavioural interference (reactivation–extinction paradigm). Both approaches have been used successfully to modify aversive and appetitive memories, yet effectiveness in treating clinical populations has been limited. We will discuss that memory flexibility depends on the type of memory tested and the brain regions that underlie specific types of memory. Further, when and how we can most effectively reactivate a memory and induce flexibility is largely unclear. Finally, the development of drugs that can target reconsolidation and are safe for use in humans would optimize cross-species translations. Increasing the understanding of the mechanism and limitations of memory flexibility upon reactivation should help optimize efficacy of treatments for psychiatric patients.


Memory Emotions Reconsolidation Translational approaches Aversive conditioning Appetitive conditioning Norepinephrine Beta-blockers Reactivation–extinction