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Dopamine Modulates Adaptive Forgetting in Medial Prefrontal Cortex.

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Gallo, Francisco Tomás  ORCID logo
Zanoni Saad, María Belén 
Silva, Azul 
Morici, Juan Facundo  ORCID logo
Miranda, Magdalena 


Active forgetting occurs in many species, but how behavioral control mechanisms influence which memories are forgotten remains unknown. We previously found that when rats need to retrieve a memory to guide exploration, it reduces later retention of other competing memories encoded in that environment. As with humans, this retrieval-induced forgetting relies on prefrontal control processes. Dopaminergic input to the prefrontal cortex is important for executive functions and cognitive flexibility. We found that, in a similar way, retrieval-induced forgetting of competing memories in male rats requires prefrontal dopamine signaling through D1 receptors. Blockade of medial prefrontal cortex D1 receptors as animals encountered a familiar object impaired active forgetting of competing object memories as measured on a later long-term memory test. Inactivation of the ventral tegmental area produced the same pattern of behavior, a pattern that could be reversed by concomitant activation of prefrontal D1 receptors. We observed a bidirectional modulation of retrieval-induced forgetting by agonists and antagonists of D1 receptors in the medial prefrontal cortex. These findings establish the essential role of prefrontal dopamine in the active forgetting of competing memories, contributing to the shaping of retention in response to the behavioral goals of an organism.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Forgetting is a ubiquitous phenomenon that is actively promoted in many species. The very act of remembering some experiences can cause forgetting of others, in both humans and rats. This retrieval-induced forgetting process is thought to be driven by inhibitory control signals from the prefrontal cortex that target areas where the memories are stored. Here we started disentangling the neurochemical signals in the prefrontal cortex that are essential to retrieval-induced forgetting. We found that, in rats, the release of dopamine in this area, acting through D1 receptors, was essential to causing active forgetting of competing memories. Inhibition of D1 receptors impaired forgetting, while activation increased forgetting. These findings are important, because the mechanisms of active forgetting and their linkage to goal-directed behavior are only beginning to be understood.



D1 receptors, active forgetting, inhibitory control, medial prefrontal cortex, retrieval-induced forgetting, Animals, Dopamine, Humans, Male, Mental Recall, Prefrontal Cortex, Rats, Receptors, Dopamine D1, Ventral Tegmental Area

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J Neurosci

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Society for Neuroscience
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_00005/1)
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