SPLTRAK Abstract Submission
Memory Mechanisms At Multiple Levels Of Biological Organization  
David Levitan, Chenghao Li, Jian-You Lin, Joseph Wachutka, Sacha B. Nelson, Donald B. Katz
Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, United States

Memory is a complex phenomenon that unfolds at multiple levels of biological organization. Fully understanding this complexity requires studying these multiple levels simultaneously. The taste system provides a highly attractive experimental system with which to study the reciprocal causal relationships between gene expression, cellular plasticity, ensemble activity, and behavior. We have developed multiple tools that enable us to address these reciprocal causal relationships in the context of conditioned taste aversion (CTA) in mice. First, using gene profiling of genetically labeled basolateral amygdalar (BLA) projection neurons (which evidence suggests are key to CTA) together with cell-type specific knock-out and electrophysiology, we have discovered genes that simultaneously block CTA learning and alter cellular plasticity of BLA projection neurons. Second, we are examining the impact of these genes on the population dynamics of taste coding—first performing the necessary, basic awake-mouse coding experiments (and demonstrating deep similarities between rat and mouse taste cortical taste processing), and then combining the different approaches to examine the consequences of genetic manipulations that block learning on ensemble coding during CTA learning.