Study Expands Understanding of How the Brain Encodes Fear Memory

Research published by UCR scientists on “fear memory” could lead to the development of therapies that reduce the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

To survive in a dynamic environment, animals develop adaptive fear responses to dangerous situations, requiring coordinated neural activity in the hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and amygdala – three brain areas connected to one another. A disruption of this process leads to maladaptive generalized fear in PTSD, which affects 7 percent of the U.S. population.

Jun-Hyeong Cho, an assistant professor of cell biology and neuroscience, and Woong Bin Kim, a postdoctoral researcher in Cho’s lab, have now found that a population of hippocampal neurons project to both the amygdala and the mPFC, and that it is these neurons that efficiently convey information to these two brain areas to encode and retrieve fear memory for a context associated with an aversive event.

The study, which appeared in the May 10 print issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to quantify these “double-projecting” hippocampal neurons and explain how they convey contextual information more efficiently for fear responses, compared to hippocampal neurons that project only to either the mPFC or the amygdala.

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Gudis, Caro, Co-curate Exhibit at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

Cathy Gudis, associate professor of history and director of the Public History Program, and Mayela Caro, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History, co-curated an exhibition that featured prominently in a nearly monthlong series of programs at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse in May.

“The Latin Wave: Exploring Myth, Illusion and Cultural Appropriation” examined the treatment of Latino culture in Hollywood, and beyond, in a series of theater, dance, music, and film presentations.

Gudis and Caro curated the accompanying exhibition, also titled “The Latin Wave: Exploring Myth, Illusion and Cultural Appropriation,” that featured photographs, costumes, and printed materials from the Huntington Library, Los Angeles Public Library, Mission Playhouse, San Gabriel Historical Association, and private collections. Gudis, who served as historical consultant to the project overall, also participated in a panel discussion on May 21.

“The Latin Wave” takes its name from the 1920s Hollywood-driven fascination for all things “Latin”—a  reference that conflated geographical and cultural differences between Spain, Mexico, Latin America, and the Mediterranean and embodied a racial hierarchy that prioritized whiteness and reinforced stereotypes that still resonate today, according to the event organizers.

The project was co-produced by the Mission Playhouse and About…Productions, and was supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures as well as UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center and UCR’s Public History Program.

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