Do learning and retrieval of a memory activate the same neurons? Does the number of reactivated neurons correlate with memory strength? We developed a transgenic mouse that enables the long-lasting genetic tagging of c-fos-active neurons. We found neurons in the basolateral amygdala that are activated during Pavlovian fear conditioning and are reactivated during memory retrieval. The number of reactivated neurons correlated positively with the behavioral expression of the fear memory, indicating a stable neural correlate of associative memory. The ability to manipulate these neurons genetically should allow a more precise dissection of the molecular mechanisms of memory encoding within a distributed neuronal network.
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