Ketamine anesthesia enhances fear memory consolidation via noradrenergic activation in the basolateral amygdala

Maria Morena, Paola Colucci, Giulia F. Mancini, Valentina De Castro, Andrea Peloso, Gustav Schelling, Patrizia Campolongo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Trauma patients treated with ketamine during emergency care present aggravated early post- traumatic stress reaction which is highly predictive of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) development and severity. The use of ketamine in the acute trauma phase may directly or indirectly interfere with neural processes of memory consolidation of the traumatic event, thus leading to the formation of maladaptive memories, a hallmark symptom of PTSD. We have recently shown that ketamine anesthesia, immediately after a traumatic event, enhances memory consolidation and leads to long-lasting alterations of social behavior in rats. Based on the evidence that ketamine induces a robust central and peripheral adrenergic/noradrenergic potentiation and that activation of this system is essential for the formation of memory for stressful events, we explored the possibility that the strong sympathomimetic action of ketamine might underlie its memory enhancing effects. We found that rats given immediate, but not delayed, post-training ketamine anesthesia (125 mg/kg) presented enhanced 48-h memory retention in an inhibitory avoidance task and that these effects were blocked by adrenal medullectomy, lesions of the locus coeruleus, systemic or intra-basolateral amygdala ß-adrenergic receptor antagonism. Thus, the memory enhancing effects of ketamine anesthesia are time-dependent and mediated by a combined peripheral-central sympathomimetic action. We elucidated a mechanism by which ketamine exacerbates acute post-traumatic reaction, possibly leading to development of PTSD symptomatology later in life. These findings will help guide for a better management of sedation/anesthesia in emergency care to promote the prophylaxis and reduce the risk of developing trauma-related disorders in trauma victims.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107362
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Arousal
  • Fear memory
  • Inhibitory avoidance
  • Ketamine
  • Memory consolidation
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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