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Dr. Harm Krugers

Detail Summary
Date 15 December 2010
Time 15:00 - 16:00

Dr. Harm Krugers
Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Humans and rodents retain memories for emotionally arousing and stressful events very well. The facilitated retention of these memories is normally very useful: individuals can appraise and if necessary avoid similar negative situations in future. However, in susceptible individuals a variety of pathological conditions may develop in which memories related to the traumatic event remain inappropriately present, such as in anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. This lecture will highlight i) molecular and cellular mechanisms that are involved in the memory enhancing effects of stress and ii) environmental factors that modulate memory formation.

The acquisition and consolidation of memories of stressful events is modulated by glucocorticoids, a type of corticosteroid hormone that is released in high levels from the adrenal glands after exposure to a stressful event. These effects occur through activation of mineralocorticoid receptors (MRs) and glucocorticoid receptors (GRs). The molecular mechanisms that underlie the effects of glucocorticoids on synaptic transmission, synaptic plasticity, learning and memory have recently begun to be identified. Glucocorticoids regulate AMPA receptor trafficking - which is crucially involved in synaptic transmission and plasticity - both rapidly and persistently. These hormones may, through modulation of AMPA receptor function, promote the consolidation of behaviorally relevant information.

Epidemiological studies in humans have shown that adverse early life events can increase the risk for the development of psychopathology in adulthood. We will present evidence from animal studies that maternal care influences hippocampal development, synaptic plasticity and (emotional) learning and memory processes.