Fred J. Helmstetter


Office: Garland Hall 207
Phone: (414) 229-4903
e-mail: fjh@uwm.edu
Web Site: people.uwm.edu/fjh
Lab Page: Helmstetter Lab


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 611/711: Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
Psych 754: Proseminar in Biological Psychology
Psych 954: Gene Expression and Behavior

Recent Publications:

Schultz, D.H., Balderston, N.L., & Helmstetter, F.J. (2012) Resting-state connectivity of the amygdala is altered following Pavlovian fear conditioning. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00242

Gilmartin, M.R, Kwapis, J.L. & Helmstetter, F.J. (2012) Trace and contextual fear conditioning are impaired following unilateral microinjection of muscimol in the ventral hippocampus or amygdala, but not the medial prefrontal cortex, Neurobiology of Learning & Memory, 97: 452-464 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nlm.2012.03.009 

Jarome, T.J., Kwapis, J.L. Werner, C.T., Parsons, R.G., Gafford, G.M. & Helmstetter, F.J. (2012) The timing of multiple retrieval events can alter GluR1 phosphorylation and the requirement for protein synthesis in fear memory reconsolidation. Learning & Memory, 19:300-306. http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/lm.024901.111

Kwapis, J.L, Jarome, T.J., Gilmartin, M.R. & Helmstetter, F.J.(2012) Intra-amygdala infusion of the protein kinase Mzeta inhibitor ZIP disrupts context fear memory, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 98: 148-153 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nlm.2012.05.003

Balderston, N.L, Schultz, D.H. & Helmstetter, F.J. (2011) The amygdala plays a stimulus specific role in the detection of novelty. NeuroImage, 55:1889-98

Gafford, G.M., Parsons, R.G. & Helmstetter, F.J. (2011) Consolidation and reconsolidation of contextual fear memory requires mammalian target of rapamycin-dependent translation in the dorsal hippocampus, Neuroscience, 182:98-104

Jarome, T.J., Werner, C.T., Kwapis, J.L. & Helmstetter, F.J. (2011) Proteasome-dependent protein degradation is critical for long-term memory formation in the amygdala. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24349. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0024349

Kwapis, J.L., Jarome, T.J., Schiff, J.C. & Helmstetter, F.J. (2011) Memory consolidation in both trace and delay fear conditioning requires protein synthesis in the amygdala. Learning & Memory, 18:728-732 http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/lm.023945.111

Jarome, T.J., Kwapis, J.L., Nye, S.H. & Helmstetter, F.J. (2010) Introgression of brown norway chromosome 1 onto the Fawn hooded hypertensive background rescues long-term fear memory deficits. Behavior Genetics, 40:85-92

Lonergan, M.E., Gafford, G.M. & Helmstetter, F.J. (2010) Time-dependent expression of Arc and zif268 after acquisition of fear conditioning. Neural Plasticity, doi:10.1155/2010/139891

Helmstetter, F.J. (2010) “Protein synthesis and memory” in Encyclopedia of Behavioral Neuroscience. G.F. Koob, M. Le Moal & R.F. Thompson Eds.Elsevier; Oxford UK

Parsons, R.G., Gafford, G.M. & Helmstetter, F.J.(2010) The ventrolateral periaqueductal gray matter regulates extinction related plasticity in the medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2010.00044

Balderston, N., Schultz, D.H & Helmstetter, F.J. (2010) Conditioning with masked stimuli affects the timecourse of skin conductance responses. Behavioral Neuroscience 124:478-489

Gilmartin, M.R. & Helmstetter, F.J. (2010) Trace fear conditioning requires neural activity and NMDA receptor dependent transmission in the medial prefrontal cortex. Learning and Memory, 17:289-296

Schultz, D.H. & Helmstetter, F.J.(2010) Classical conditioning of autonomic fear responses is independent of contingency awareness. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 36:495-500