Sussex Neuroscience

Dr Emiliano Merlo

EmilianoTo persist or not to persist: revealing the mechanisms that control memory maintenance and inhibition

Memories are everyday miracles that we take for granted. We hope that the good ones last for our entire lives, but memory persistence is double-edged. Our brains can change memories when they are outdated or become irrelevant which results in better responses in an ever-changing environment. However, aberrantly persistent memories lay at the core of anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder or specific phobias, or several types of addiction disorders. Current treatments for such disorders are, at best, only effective in half of the patients. Understanding the neural mechanisms controlling both aversive or appetitive memory inhibition is essential to improve exiting or develop novel therapies for treating these disorders.
A PhD project in our lab will use rodents to investigate the neural mechanisms underlying maintenance or inhibition of appetitive or aversive memories. The experimental approach will include behavioural analysis, pharmacological interventions (including protein knockdown using antisense and/or CRISPR/Cas9 technology) and molecular biological analysis. As examples, current projects within the lab are investigating: 1) the molecular identity of memory sub-processes supporting memory extinction; 2) the neural underpinnings of a novel retrieval dependent memory process called limbo; and 3) cross species biomarkers of memory destabilisation in humans and rodents with translational potential.

Potential collaborations within Sussex Neuroscience may include: Dr. Eisuke Koya and Prof. Sara Garfinkel.

Selected publications

Pagani, Mario Rafael and Merlo, Emiliano (2019) Kinase and phosphatase engagement is dissociated between memory formation and extinction. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 12 (38). pp. 1-16. ISSN 1662-5099

Merlo, Emiliano, Milton, Amy L and Everitt, Barry J (2018) A novel retrieval-dependent memory process revealed by the arrest of ERK1/2 activation in the basolateral amygdala. The Journal of Neuroscience, 38 (13). pp. 3199-3207. ISSN 0270-6474

Merlo, Emiliano, Milton, Amy L and Everitt, Barry J (2015) Enhancing cognition by affecting memory reconsolidation. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 4. pp. 41-47. ISSN 2352-1546

Merlo, Emiliano, Bekinschtein, Pedro, Jonkman, Sietse and Medina, Jorge H (2015) [Editorial] Molecular mechanisms of memory consolidation, reconsolidation, and persistence. Neural Plasticity, 2015. pp. 1-2. ISSN 2090-5904

Merlo, Emiliano, Ratano, Patrizia, Ilioi, Elena C, Robbins, Miranda A L S, Everitt, Barry J and Milton, Amy L (2015) Amygdala dopamine receptors are required for the destabilization of a reconsolidating appetitive memory. eNeuro, 2 (1). pp. 1-14. ISSN 2373-2822

Merlo, Emiliano, Milton, Amy L, Goozée, Zara Y, Theobald, David E and Everitt, Barry J (2014) Reconsolidation and extinction are dissociable and mutually exclusive processes: behavioral and molecular evidence. Journal of Neuroscience, 34 (7). pp. 2422-2431. ISSN 1529-2401