Natural hypothalamic circuit dynamics underlying object memorization

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Brain signals that govern memory formation remain incompletely identified. The hypothalamus is implicated in memory disorders, but how its rapidly changing activity shapes memorization is unknown. During encounters with objects, hypothalamic melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) neurons emit brief signals that reflect object novelty. Here we show that targeted optogenetic silencing of these signals, performed selectively during the initial object encounters (i.e. memory acquisition), prevents future recognition of the objects. We identify an upstream inhibitory microcircuit from hypothalamic GAD65 neurons to MCH neurons, which constrains the memory-promoting MCH cell bursts. Finally, we demonstrate that silencing the GAD65 cells during object memory acquisition improves future object recognition through MCH-receptor-dependent pathways. These results provide causal evidence that object-associated signals in genetically distinct but interconnected hypothalamic neurons differentially control whether the brain forms object memories. This gating of memory formation by hypothalamic activity establishes appropriate behavioral responses to novel and familiar objects.

Journal details

Volume 10
Issue number 1
Pages 2505
Publication date

Crick labs/facilities