An extensive body of literature indicates that emotion modulates memory. Moderate levels of emotional arousal enhance memory, but extreme levels of emotional arousal impair memory and might be related to clinical disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Numerous studies indicate that the amygdala is a crucial hub for coordinating both the cognitive and physiological responses to emotion, including the responses that modulate memory. Projections from the basal nucleus of the amygdala to the hippocampus are in part responsible for enhancing hippocampus dependent memory, such as novel object recognition. The project will address how the input from the amygdala modulates neuronal activity in the hippocampus in the service of enhancing memory. Specifically, electrical stimulation of the basal nucleus of the amygdala will be combined with neural recordings in the hippocampus in order to investigate how the amygdala projections to the hippocampus can enhance memory representations in the hippocampus. The expected outcomes will be relevant to potential therapeutic strategies for memory enhancement as well as to disorders in which abnormal amygdalo-hippocampal interactions are thought to be prevalent, including post-traumatic stress disorder. The proposed research project will also serve as a framework for the applicant's training plan, which was specifically designed to integrate basic research on amygdalo-hippocampal interactions with the applicant's career goal of becoming a physician-scientist whose focus will be neurosurgical treatments of psychiatric disorders.
The goal of the current project is to understand interactions between the hippocampus and the amygdala in the service of enhancing memory. Understanding this normal interaction will provide insights regarding clinical treatments for memory disorders as well as psychiatric disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that are thought to involve dysfunctional interactions between the amygdala and hippocampus.