Piling On the Stress Blocks All Memory in Snails

Single stressors inhibits long-term memory but short term memory can still form.

Combining the stressors inhibits all memory formation –  short and  long term.

At least in snails.

Free from PLoS ONE

Combining Stressors That Individually Impede Long-Term Memory Blocks All Memory Processes

The effects of stress on memory are typically assessed individually; however, in reality different stressors are often experienced simultaneously. Here we determined the effect that two environmentally relevant stressors, crowding and low calcium availability, have on memory and neural activity following operant conditioning of aerial respiration in the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. We measured aerial breathing behaviour and activity of a neuron necessary for memory formation, right pedal dorsal 1 (RPeD1), in the central pattern generator (CPG) that drives aerial respiration in untrained animals, and assessed how these traits changed following training. In naïve animals both crowding and combined stressors significantly depressed burst activity in RPeD1 which correlated with a depression in aerial breathing behaviour, whereas low calcium availability had no effect on RPeD1 activity. Following training, changes in burst activity in RPeD1 correlated with behavioural changes, decreasing relative to their naïve state at 3 h and 24 h in control conditions when both intermediate-term memory (ITM: 3 h) and long-term memory (LTM: 24 h) are formed, at 3 h but not 24 h when exposed to individual stressors when only ITM is formed, and did not change in combined stressors (i.e. when no memory is formed). Additionally, we also found that Lymnaea formed short-term memory (STM: 10 min) in the presence of individual stressors or under control conditions, but failed to do so in the presence of combined stressors. Our data demonstrate that by combining stressors that individually block LTM only we can block all memory processes. Therefore the effects of two stressors with similar individual affects on memory phenotype may be additive when experienced in combination.


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