Chronic exposure to stress has been widely implicated in the development of anxiety disorders, yet relatively little is known about the long-term effects of chronic stress on amygdala-dependent memory formation. Here, we examined the effects of a history of chronic exposure to the stress-associated adrenal steroid corticosterone (CORT) on the consolidation of a fear memory and the expression of memory-related immediate early genes (IEGs) in the lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA). Rats received chronic exposure to CORT (50 μg/ml) in their drinking water for 2 weeks and were then titrated off the CORT for an additional 6 days followed by a 2 week ‘wash-out’ period consisting of access to plain water. Rats were then either sacrificed to examine the expression of memory-related IEG expression in the LA or given auditory Pavlovian fear conditioning. We show that chronic exposure to CORT leads to a persistent elevation in the expression of the IEGs Arc/Arg3.1 and Egr-1 in the LA. Further, we show that rats with a history of chronic CORT exposure exhibit enhanced consolidation of a fear memory; short-term memory (STM) is not affected, while long-term memory (LTM) is significantly enhanced. Treatment with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluoxetine following the chronic CORT exposure period was observed to effectively reverse both the persistent CORT-related increases in memory-related IEG expression in the LA and the CORT-related enhancement in fear memory consolidation. Our findings suggest that chronic exposure to CORT can regulate memory-related IEG expression and fear memory consolidation processes in the LA in a long-lasting manner and that treatment with fluoxetine can reverse these effects.
Monsey, M. S., Boyle, L. M., Zhang, M. L., Nguyen, C. P., Kronman, H. G., Ota, K. T. . . . Schafe, G. E. (2014). Chronic Corticosterone Exposure Persistently Elevates the Expression of Memory-Related Genes in the Lateral Amygdala and Enhances the Consolidation of a Pavlovian Fear Memory. PLoS ONE, 9(3), e91530. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091530.