Relearning a context-shock association after forgetting is an NMDAr-independent process.Physiol Behav. 2015 Sep 01; 148:29-35.PB
Infantile amnesia (i.e., the rapid rate of forgetting in young animals) is at least partially due to a memory retrieval, rather than a storage, failure as studies have shown that these engrams can continue to influence later behavior. For example, prior conditioning affects the neural mechanisms underlying future learning. In adult animals, the initial learning of a context-shock association depends upon N-Methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA) receptors, but this conditioning renders subsequent learning to a similar context NMDAr-independent. In the present study, we examined whether this transition from NMDAr-dependent to NMDAr-independent context conditioning occurs even after infantile amnesia. Experiment 1 demonstrated that infant (i.e., postnatal day 17) rats acquire a context-shock association when trained with multiple shocks, as assessed by context freezing one day later. However, they exhibit significant forgetting of this association 10days later. Experiments 2 and 3 showed that even when animals had forgotten the initial learning experience, future conditioning to the same context was NMDAr-independent. There was evidence of a transition to NMDAr-independent context fear learning in animals exposed only to the foot shock in infancy (Experiment 3) or only to the context in infancy (Experiment 3 but not Experiment 2). These latter results suggest that animals do not have to be exposed to the entire conditioning procedure at postnatal day 17 to show a transition to NMDAr-independent context learning. These experiments add to a growing body of evidence that forgotten infant memories can continue to affect later behavior by demonstrating that prior experience alters the mechanisms of future learning.