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Involvement of medial prefrontal cortex neurons in behavioral and cardiovascular responses to contextual fear conditioning



Involvement of medial prefrontal cortex neurons in behavioral and cardiovascular responses to contextual fear conditioning



Neuroscience 143(2): 377-385



To explore the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vMPFC) involvement in behavioral and autonomic fear-conditioned responses to context, vMPFC synaptic transmission was temporarily inhibited by bilateral microinjections of 200 nL of the nonselective synapse blocker CoCl(2) (1 mM). Behavioral activity (freezing, motor activity and rearing) as well as evoked cardiovascular responses (arterial pressure and heart rate) was analyzed. Rats were pre-exposed to the footshock chamber (context) and shock stimulus was used unconditioned stimulus. During re-exposure to context, conditioned rats spent 80% of the session in freezing while non-conditioned rats (no shock group) spent less than 15% of the session time in freezing. Conditioned rats had significantly lower activity scores than non-conditioned animals. Exposure to context increased mean arterial pressure (MAP) and heart rate (HR) of both groups. MAP and HR of the conditioned animals were markedly increased and remained at a high and stable level, whereas MAP and HR increases in non-conditioned animals were less pronounced and declined during the session. CoCl(2) microinjected in the vMPFC significantly reduced freezing and attenuated MAP and HR increase of the conditioned group. Cobalt-induced vMPFC inhibition also significantly reduced MAP and HR increase observed in non-conditioned animals, without any behavioral changes. The effect of vMPFC acute ablation on MAP and HR did not seem to be specific to the fear response because they were also evident in non-conditioned animals. The results indicate that vMPFC integrity is crucial for expression of fear-conditioned responses to context, such as freezing and cardiovascular changes, suggesting that fear-conditioned responses to context involve cortical processing prior to amygdalar output. They also indicate a cardiovascular response observed during re-exposure of non-conditioned rats to the context is completely dependent on vMPFC integrity.

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Accession: 049407504

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 16973302

DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2006.08.002


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