Reconsolidation of appetitive memory and sleep: functional connectomics and plasticity

Starting date
October 1, 2016
Duration (months)
Diagnostics and Public Health
Managers or local contacts
Chiamulera Cristiano

The project aim is to study the role and interaction between brain areas involved in processing of appetitive
conditioned and contextual stimuli, and the reactivation and destabilization of such conditioned memories
during state-dependent behaviours, sleep and wake, in which all behavioural performances are inscribed.
The identification of brain mechanisms underlying the reconsolidation of appetitive memories, and the role of
sleep in these mechanisms are highly relevant for the development of therapeutic interventions for
compulsive behaviours, eg for food, alcohol, smoking, drugs. Notably, these behaviours are deemed 'at risk' for
both their direct consequences on the health of the individual, and their growing impact at the socio-economic
and healthcare levels.
The originality of the project is in the association, in the rat in vivo, of two methodologies, the study of
electroencephalographic (EEG) patterns and the use of models with high predictive validity, investigating the
correlates of recently discovered neural networks phenomena of functional connectomics between brain areas.
This approach will be implemented ex vivo by the study of synaptic wiring of hippocampal neurons to disclose
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the occurrence of synaptic plasticity phenomena.
This highly innovative, multidisciplinary approach will be pursued with EEG recording during the reactivation
of memories associated with compulsive behaviours for palatable food. It is well known that memory
reactivation makes them temporarily susceptible to therapeutic intervention. Recording and analysis of EEG
cross-frequency coupling and coherence will be correlated to behavioural analysis at appetitive memory
retrieval during sleep/wake, followed by a relapse test (reinstatement) to compulsive behaviour. With a
translational approach, the effect of drug treatment with substances known to inhibit memory reactivation will
also be investigated. Synaptic wiring will be analysed with quantitative imaging approaches in microscopy.

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