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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Norepinephrine-mediated emotional arousal facilitates subsequent pattern separation


Pattern separation, the process by which similar experiences can be stored as distinct memories, has been ascribed to the dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus. The DG is the target of noradrenergic modulation directly and indirectly via the basolateral amygdala. We tested the hypothesis that noradrenergic activation (tested using salivary alpha-amylase) potentiates DG function, enhancing pattern separation, by showing participants fearful stimuli in a pre-training task and then testing their capacity for pattern separation in a later test. Consistent with our hypothesis, we found that increased levels of salivary alphaamylase were positively correlated with enhanced pattern separation performance even after accounting for general enhancements in recognition.

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