Background: A common feature of memory and its underlying synaptic plasticity is that each can be dissected into short-lived forms involving modification or trafficking of existing proteins and long-term forms that require new gene expression. An underlying assumption of this cellular view of memory consolidation is that these different mechanisms occur within a single neuron. At the neuroanatomical level, however, different temporal stages of memory can engage distinct neural circuits, a notion that has not been conceptually integrated with the cellular view.
Results: Here, we investigated this issue in the context of aversive Pavlovian olfactory memory in Drosophila. Previous studies have demonstrated a central role for cAMP signaling in the mushroom body (MB). The Ca(2+)-responsive adenylyl cyclase RUTABAGA is believed to be a coincidence detector in gamma neurons, one of the three principle classes of MB Kenyon cells. We were able to separately restore short-term or long-term memory to a rutabaga mutant with expression of rutabaga in different subsets of MB neurons.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest a model in which the learning experience initiates two parallel associations: a short-lived trace in MB gamma neurons, and a long-lived trace in alpha/beta neurons.