Food aversions develop when the taste of a novel food is associated with sickness, which often occurs after food poisoning or chemotherapy treatment. We identified calcitonin-gene-related peptide (CGRP) neurons in the parabrachial nucleus (PBN) as sufficient and necessary for establishing a conditioned taste aversion (CTA). Photoactivating projections from CGRPPBN neurons to either the central nucleus of the amygdala or the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis can also induce robust CTA. CGRPPBN neurons undergo plasticity following CTA, and inactivation of either Arc or Grin1 (genes involved in memory consolidation) prevents establishment of a strong CTA. Calcium imaging reveals that the novel food re-activates CGRPPBN neurons after conditioning. Inhibition of these neurons or inactivation of the Grin1 gene after conditioning attenuates CTA expression. Our results indicate that CGRPPBN neurons not only play a key role for learning food aversions but also contribute to the maintenance and expression of those memories.
Keywords: CGRP; calcium imaging; central nucleus of the amygdala; conditioned taste aversion; learning; parabrachial nucleus.
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