Impairment of aversive memory reconsolidation by localized intracranial electrical stimulation

Eur J Neurosci. 2009 Mar;29(5):964-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06634.x. Epub 2009 Feb 5.


Reconsolidation of long-term memory is blocked in animal models by macromolecular synthesis inhibitors, resulting in item-specific post-retrieval amnesia. The induction of such amnesia could ameliorate traumatic memories and phobias. However, this pharmacological approach is of limited value in humans because of toxicity. Here we report that reconsolidation of conditioned taste aversion in the rat is impaired by localized intracranial electrical stimulation. Lasting impairment was obtained only when stimulation was applied during memory reactivation and only to the dysgranular insular cortex bilaterally, which subserves the memory, but not to adjacent brain sites. The ability to learn a new association was not affected. The same method blocked new memory consolidation, but produced anterograde amnesia, reminiscent of the known effect of non-localized electroconvulsive therapy. Our results suggest that localized electrical microstimulation, such as produced by deep-brain stimulation or deep transcranial magnetic stimulation, could be used to impair long-term memory if applied during memory reactivation, and could lead to the development of a novel treatment for intractable post-traumatic stress disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Biophysics
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Electric Stimulation / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / adverse effects*