About this Research Topic
Fear and reward are two of the most important reinforcers in our daily life. Without appropriate function of fear and reward systems, we are unable to survive in this world filled with different dangers. However, overwhelming fear and excessive rewards could cause pathological adaptations of fear and reward systems, which would ultimately induce dysfunctions of the brain and cause-related mental disorders.
Memory, which is defined as the process of maintaining information over time, is one of the most fundamental functions of the brain. Emotional memories are a group of specific memories generated under some conditions when the emotional system of the brain is involved. Emotional memories can be categorized as aversive and appetitive memories based on whether emotional situations are bad or good (e.g. fear or positive emotions associated with rewards). Growing evidence demonstrates that aversive and appetitive memories played critical roles in emotional memory-related diseases, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and drug addiction.
Formation of emotional memories requires a series of psychological processes (e.g. conditioning, consolidation, storage, retrieval, and so forth). Upon completion of memory consolidation, emotional memories could be stored persistently throughout the course of life. The persistence of related emotional memories is believed to be the most notorious property of mental diseases such as PTSD and drug addiction. Fortunately, the stored emotional memories could re-enter into a transiently unstable state under some conditions (e.g. reactivation by memory retrieval). Evidence show that emotional memories could be modified or updated during memory reconsolidation, the process within a restricted time window after memory reactivation. Usually, a brief exposure to contextual or explicit cues could induce the reconsolidation of emotional memories. However, if the cue exposure was prolonged, an opposite process named as extinction would be triggered. Extinction has been taken as the basis of exposure therapy, which is utilized to treat fear- and anxiety-related disorders in the clinic setting. Evidence also shows that facilitating extinction may be an effective strategy to combat drug addiction and prevent relapse. Therefore, interventions by targeting reconsolidation and extinction of emotional memories are promising therapeutic strategies to treat these disorders.
The goal of this Research Topic is to discuss the latest advances on reconsolidation and extinction of fear and drug reward memories. We would like to discuss the novel mechanisms of reconsolidation and extinction, which would improve our understanding of emotional memories. Additionally, we would like to discuss interventions based on reconsolidation and extinction, which would facilitate the development of novel behavioral and pharmacological therapies to treat PTSD and drug addiction. We aimed to generate a Research Topic that includes research and review articles from both animal and human studies.
The contributions must focus on reconsolidation and extinction of emotional memories, and cover the subtopics listed as below:
1) Perspectives on reconsolidation and extinction of emotional memories;
2) Behavioral and pharmacological interventions of emotional memories based on reconsolidation and extinction;
3) Neural mechanisms of reconsolidation and extinction of emotional memories: signaling pathways, epigenetic modulation, neural circuitries, and psychological theories;
4) Genetic or environmental factors that interfere with reconsolidation and extinction of emotional memories.
Keywords: Emotional memory, fear memory, drug addiction, reconsolidation, extinction
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.