Neuromodulatory signaling in hippocampus-dependent memory retrieval

Hippocampus. 2015 Apr;25(4):415-31. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22394.


Considerable advances have been made toward understanding the molecular signaling events that underlie memory acquisition and consolidation. In contrast, less is known about memory retrieval, despite its necessity for utilizing learned information. This review focuses on neuromodulatory and intracellular signaling events that underlie memory retrieval mediated by the hippocampus, for which the most information is currently available. Among neuromodulators, adrenergic signaling is required for the retrieval of various types of hippocampus-dependent memory. Although they contribute to acquisition and/or consolidation, cholinergic and dopaminergic signaling are generally not required for retrieval. Interestingly, while not required for retrieval, serotonergic and opioid signaling may actually constrain memory retrieval. Roles for histamine and non-opioid neuropeptides are currently unclear but possible. A critical effector of adrenergic signaling in retrieval is reduction of the slow afterhyperpolarization mediated by β1 receptors, cyclic AMP, protein kinase A, Epac, and possibly ERK. In contrast, stress and glucocorticoids impair retrieval by decreasing cyclic AMP, mediated in part by the activation of β2 -adrenergic receptors. Clinically, alterations in neuromodulatory signaling and in memory retrieval occur in Alzheimer's disease, Down syndrome, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and recent evidence has begun to link changes in neuromodulatory signaling with effects on memory retrieval.

Keywords: CA1; adrenergic; cyclic AMP; glucocorticoid; slow afterhyperpolarization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall / drug effects
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Neurotransmitter Agents