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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 9828517, 11 pages
Research Article

Effect of Associative Learning on Memory Spine Formation in Mouse Barrel Cortex

1Department of Histology, Jagiellonian University Medical College, 7 Kopernika Street, 31-034 Krakow, Poland
2Department of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, 3 Pasteur Street, 02-093 Warsaw, Poland
3Department of Cell Biology and Imaging, Institute of Zoology, Jagiellonian University, 9 Gronostajowa Street, 30-387 Krakow, Poland
4University of Social Sciences and Humanities, 19/31 Chodakowska Street, 03-815 Warsaw, Poland

Received 19 June 2015; Revised 31 August 2015; Accepted 14 September 2015

Academic Editor: Bryen A. Jordan

Copyright © 2016 Malgorzata Jasinska et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Associative fear learning, in which stimulation of whiskers is paired with mild electric shock to the tail, modifies the barrel cortex, the functional representation of sensory receptors involved in the conditioning, by inducing formation of new inhibitory synapses on single-synapse spines of the cognate barrel hollows and thus producing double-synapse spines. In the barrel cortex of conditioned, pseudoconditioned, and untreated mice, we analyzed the number and morphological features of dendritic spines at various maturation and stability levels: sER-free spines, spines containing smooth endoplasmic reticulum (sER), and spines containing spine apparatus. Using stereological analysis of serial sections examined by transmission electron microscopy, we found that the density of double-synapse spines containing spine apparatus was significantly increased in the conditioned mice. Learning also induced enhancement of the postsynaptic density area of inhibitory synapses as well as increase in the number of polyribosomes in such spines. In single-synapse spines, the effects of conditioning were less pronounced and included increase in the number of polyribosomes in sER-free spines. The results suggest that fear learning differentially affects single- and double-synapse spines in the barrel cortex: it promotes maturation and stabilization of double-synapse spines, which might possibly contribute to permanent memory formation, and upregulates protein synthesis in single-synapse spines.