Dopamine dependent setting of a circadian oscillator underlying the memory for time of day

Sean W. Cain, Omar A Rawashdeh, Michael Siu, Seung Cheol Kim, Martin R. Ralph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Animals learn and remember the time of day that significant conditions occur, and anticipate recurrence at 24-hr intervals, even after only one exposure to the condition. On several place-conditioning tasks, animals show context avoidance or preference only near the time of day of the experience. The memory for time of day is registered by a circadian oscillator that is set at the time of the training. We show that manipulations of dopamine (DA) neurotransmission can set a time memory in place preference and avoidance tasks, indicating that time of day is part of the context that is learned. Single injections of the DA agonist, d-amphetamine sulfate given without further exposure to the conditioning apparatus, can reset the timing of anticipatory behavior evoked by previously acquired place-event associations. The data support a model for time memory in which DA signaling sets the phase of a circadian oscillator, which returns to the same state at regular 24-hour intervals. The data also raise the possibility that some apparent impairments of memory formation or retention could reflect post-experience resetting of the optimal retrieval time rather than impairment of memory or retrieval per se.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-83
Number of pages6
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Amphetamine
  • Circadian rhythms
  • DA
  • Haloperidol
  • Memory
  • Place preference
  • Time-of-day learning

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