Preservation of a remote fear memory requires new myelin formation

Nat Neurosci. 2020 Apr;23(4):487-499. doi: 10.1038/s41593-019-0582-1. Epub 2020 Feb 10.


Experience-dependent myelination is hypothesized to shape neural circuit function and subsequent behavioral output. Using a contextual fear memory task in mice, we demonstrate that fear learning induces oligodendrocyte precursor cells to proliferate and differentiate into myelinating oligodendrocytes in the medial prefrontal cortex. Transgenic animals that cannot form new myelin exhibit deficient remote, but not recent, fear memory recall. Recording population calcium dynamics by fiber photometry, we observe that the neuronal response to conditioned context cues evolves over time in the medial prefrontal cortex, but not in animals that cannot form new myelin. Finally, we demonstrate that pharmacological induction of new myelin formation with clemastine fumarate improves remote memory recall and promotes fear generalization. Thus, bidirectional manipulation of myelin plasticity functionally affects behavior and neurophysiology, which suggests that neural activity during fear learning instructs the formation of new myelin, which in turn supports the consolidation and/or retrieval of remote fear memories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Memory, Long-Term / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology*
  • Oligodendrocyte Precursor Cells / physiology*
  • Oligodendrocyte Transcription Factor 2 / genetics
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology


  • Oligodendrocyte Transcription Factor 2