Fred J. Helmstetter

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Web Site:


Ph.D., Dartmouth College, 1989


The primary focus of our work is on understanding the neural systems underlying complex psychological phenomena like learning, memory, and emotion. We are interested in how memory is stored in the brain, how experience and learning can modify the nervous system, and how brain systems work together to solve these problems. While the emphasis in my lab is on basic science rather than on neuropathology or mental disorders, some of the fundamental questions we're addressing can relate to clinical problems. We take a multi-level approach which includes molecular neurobiology, functional brain imaging, and behavioral studies in humans and laboratory animals.

Research projects currently underway include:

  • Studies on the molecular mechanisms involved in long-term memory formation with a focus on neuronal protein synthesis and degradation.
  • Examining some of the neurobiological mechanisms through which motivation and emotion can influence learning and perception.
  • Circuit analysis of fear learning focused on interactions between the amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.
  • Functional mapping of brain circuits important for implicit and explicit memory performance using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in human volunteers. The role of awareness and consciousness in learning.

I am currently interested in taking new Ph.D. students and postdocs. Federally funded RA positions are available to qualified students. Please feel free to contact me or visit our web site for further details.

Courses Taught:

Psych 254: Physiological Psychology
Psych 355: Introduction to Neuroscience II: From Brain to Behavior
Psych 657: Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
Psych 754: Proseminar in Biological Psychology
Psych 954: Gene Expression and Behavior

Selected Publications

Trask, S. , Dulka, B. N., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2020) Age-Related Memory Impairment Is Associated with Increased zif268 Protein Accumulation and Decreased Rpt6 Phosphorylation.INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR SCIENCES, 21(15).
Trask, S. , Reis, D. S., Ferrara, N. C., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2020) Decreased cued fear discrimination learning in female rats as a function of estrous phase.LEARNING & MEMORY, 27(6), 254-257.
Izumi, H. , Kawahata, I. , Shinoda, Y. , Helmstetter, F. J., & Fukunaga, K. (2020) SAK3 Administration Improves Spine Abnormalities and Cognitive Deficits in App(NL-G-F/NL-G-F) Knock-in Mice by Increasing Proteasome Activity through CaMKII/Rpt6 Signaling.INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR SCIENCES, 21(11).
Dulka, B. N., Pullins, S. E., Cullen, P. K., Moyer, J. R., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2020) Age-related memory deficits are associated with changes in protein degradation in brain regions critical for trace fear conditioning.Neurobiology of aging, 91, 160-166.
Ferrara, N. C., Jarome, T. J., Cullen, P. K., Orsi, S. A., Kwapis, J. L., Trask, S. , Pullins, S. E., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2019) GluR2 endocytosis-dependent protein degradation in the amygdala mediates memory updating.SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 9.
Ferrara, N. C., Trask, S. , Pullins, S. E., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2019) The dorsal hippocampus mediates synaptic destabilization and memory lability in the amygdala in the absence of contextual novelty.NEUROBIOLOGY OF LEARNING AND MEMORY, 166.
De La Rosa, Israel J., . , Azimipour, M. , Cullen, P. K., Helmstetter, F. J., & Pashaie, R. (2018) Angularly Resolved Deep Brain Fluorescence Imaging Using a Single Optical Fiber.INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF OPTICS, 2018.
Belleau, E. L., Pedersen, W. S., Miskovich, T. A., Helmstetter, F. J., & Larson, C. L.(2018) Cortico-limbic connectivity changes following fear extinction and relationships with trait anxiety.SOCIAL COGNITIVE AND AFFECTIVE NEUROSCIENCE, 13(10), 1037-1046.
Cullen, P. K., Ferrara, N. C., Pullins, S. E., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2017) Context memory formation requires activity-dependent protein degradation in the hippocampus.LEARNING & MEMORY, 24(11), 589-596.
Azimipour, M. , Sheikhzadeh, M. , Baumgartner, R. , Cullen, P. K., Helmstetter, F. J., Chang, W. , & Pashaie, R. (2017) Fluorescence laminar optical tomography for brain imaging: system implementation and performance evaluation.JOURNAL OF BIOMEDICAL OPTICS, 22(1).
Ferrara, N. C., Cullen, P. K., Pullins, S. P., Rotondo, E. K., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2017) Input from the medial geniculate nucleus modulates amygdala encoding of fear memory discrimination.LEARNING & MEMORY, 24(9), 414-421.
Kwapis, J. L., Jarome, T. J., Ferrara, N. C., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2017) Updating Procedures Can Reorganize the Neural Circuit Supporting a Fear Memory.Neuropsychopharmacology.
Jarome, T. J., Ferrara, N. C., Kwapis, J. L., & (2016) CaMKII regulates proteasome phosphorylation and activity and promotes memory destabilization following retrieval.Helmstetter, F. J.(Ed). Neurobiology of Learning & Memory, 128, 103-109.
Hopkins, L. S., Helmstetter, F. J., & Hannula, D. E.(2016) Eye movements are captured by a perceptually simple conditioned stimulus in the absence of explicit contingency knowledge.Emotion, 16, 1157-1171.
Jarome, T. J., Ferrara, N. C., Kwapis, J. L., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2015) Contextual Information Drives the Reconsolidation-Dependent Updating of Retrieved Fear Memories.Neuropsychopharmacology.
Hopkins, L. S., Schultz, D. H., Hannula, D. E., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2015) Eye movements index implicit memory expression in fear conditioning.PLoS ONE, 10.
Gilmartin, M. R., Balderston, N. L., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2014) Prefrontal cortical regulation of fear learning.Trends in Neuroscience, 37, 455-464.
Jarome, T. J., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2014) Protein degradation and protein synthesis in memory formation.Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 7, 61.
Gilmartin, M. R., Miyawaki, H. , Helmstetter, F. J., & Diba, K. (2013) Prefrontal activity links nonoverlapping events in memory.Journal of Neuroscience, 33(26), 10910-4.
Schultz, D. H., Balderston, N. L., & Helmstetter, F. J.(2013) Dissociation between implicit and explicit responses in postconditioning UCS revaluation after fear conditioning in humans.Behavioral Neuroscience, 127, 357-368.