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Novelty and Dopaminergic Modulation of Memory Persistence: A Tale of Two Systems

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  • Adrian J Duszkiewicz, Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, McGill University, Montreal, Canada; Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
  • ,
  • Colin G McNamara, MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit, Department of Pharmacology, University of Oxford, Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TH, UK.
  • ,
  • Tomonori Takeuchi
  • Lisa Genzel

Adaptation to the ever-changing world is critical for survival, and our brains are particularly tuned to remember events that differ from previous experiences. Novel experiences induce dopamine release in the hippocampus, a process which promotes memory persistence. While axons from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) were generally thought to be the exclusive source of hippocampal dopamine, recent studies have demonstrated that noradrenergic neurons in the locus coeruleus (LC) corelease noradrenaline and dopamine in the hippocampus and that their dopamine release boosts memory retention as well. In this opinion article, we propose that the projections originating from the VTA and the LC belong to two distinct systems that enhance memory of novel events. Novel experiences that share some commonality with past ones ('common novelty') activate the VTA and promote semantic memory formation via systems memory consolidation. By contrast, experiences that bear only a minimal relationship to past experiences ('distinct novelty') activate the LC to trigger strong initial memory consolidation in the hippocampus, resulting in vivid and long-lasting episodic memories.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTrends in Neurosciences
Pages (from-to)102-114
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

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Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.

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