Conditioned fear is modulated by D-2 receptor pathway connecting the ventral tegmental area and basolateral amygdala
ABSTRACT Excitation of the mesocorticolimbic pathway, originating from dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), may be important for the development of exaggerated fear responding. Among the forebrain regions innervated by this pathway, the amygdala is an essential component of the neural circuitry of conditioned fear. The functional role of the dopaminergic pathway connecting the VTA to the basolateral amygdala (BLA) in fear and anxiety has received little attention. In vivo microdialysis was performed to measure dopamine levels in the BLA of Wistar rats that received the dopamine D(2) agonist quinpirole (1 μg/0.2 μl) into the VTA and were subjected to a fear conditioning test using a light as the conditioned stimulus (CS). The effects of intra-BLA injections of the D(1) antagonist SCH 23390 (1 and 2 μg/0.2 μl) and D(2) antagonist sulpiride (1 and 2 μg/0.2 μl) on fear-potentiated startle (FPS) to a light-CS were also assessed. Locomotor performance was evaluated by use of open-field and rotarod tests. Freezing and increased dopamine levels in the BLA in response to the CS were both inhibited by intra-VTA quinpirole. Whereas intra-BLA SCH 23390 did not affect FPS, intra-BLA sulpiride (2 μg) inhibited FPS. Sulpiride's ability to decrease FPS cannot be attributed to nonspecific effects because this drug did not affect motor performance. These findings indicate that the dopamine D(2) receptor pathway connecting the ventral tegmental area and the basolateral amygdala modulates fear and anxiety and may be a novel pharmacological target for the treatment of anxiety.
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ABSTRACT: Methylphenidate (MPH), introduced more than 60 years ago, accounts for two-thirds of current prescriptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although many studies have modeled MPH's effect on executive function, almost none have directly modeled its effect on long-term memory (LTM), even though improvement in LTM is a critical target of therapeutic intervention in ADHD. We examined the effects of a wide range of doses of MPH (0.01-10 mg/kg, i.p.) on Pavlovian fear learning, a leading model of memory. MPH's effects were then compared to those of atomoxetine (0.1-10 mg/kg, i.p.), bupropion (0.5-20 mg/kg, i.p.), and citalopram (0.01-10 mg/kg, i.p.). At low, clinically relevant doses, MPH enhanced fear memory; at high doses it impaired memory. MPH's memory-enhancing effects were not confounded by its effects on locomotion or anxiety. Further, MPH-induced memory enhancement seemed to require both dopamine and norepinephrine transporter inhibition. Finally, the addictive potential of MPH (1 mg/kg and 10 mg/kg) was compared to those of two other psychostimulants, amphetamine (0.005 mg/kg and 1.5 mg/kg) and cocaine (0.15 mg/kg and 15 mg/kg), using a conditioned place preference and behavioral sensitization paradigm. We found that memory-enhancing effects of psychostimulants observed at low doses are readily dissociable from their reinforcing and locomotor activating effects at high doses. Together, our data suggest that fear conditioning will be an especially fruitful platform for modeling the effects of psychostimulants on LTM in drug development.Learning & memory (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.) 01/2014; 21(2):82-9. DOI:10.1101/lm.033613.113 · 4.38 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Several human and experimental studies have shown that early life adverse events can shape physical and mental health in adulthood. Stress or elevated levels of glucocorticoids (GCs) during critical periods of development seem to contribute for the appearance of neurospyschiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression, albeit the underlying mechanisms remain to be fully elucidated. The aim of the present study was to determine the long-term effect of prenatal exposure to dexamethasone- DEX (synthetic GC widely used in clinics) in fear and anxious behavior and identify the neurochemical, morphological and molecular correlates. Prenatal exposure to DEX triggers a hyperanxious phenotype and altered fear behavior in adulthood. These behavioral traits were correlated with increased volume of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), particularly the anteromedial subdivision which presented increased dendritic length; in parallel, we found an increased expression of synapsin and NCAM in the BNST of these animals. Remarkably, DEX effects were opposite in the amygdala, as this region presented reduced volume due to significant dendritic atrophy. Albeit no differences were found in dopamine and its metabolite levels in the BNST, this neurotransmitter was substantially reduced in the amygdala, which also presented an up-regulation of dopamine receptor 2. Altogether, our results show that in utero DEX exposure can modulate anxiety and fear behavior in parallel with significant morphological, neurochemical and molecular changes; importantly, GCs seem to differentially affect distinct brain regions involved in this type of behaviors.Psychopharmacology 09/2011; 220(3):443-53. DOI:10.1007/s00213-011-2494-y · 3.99 Impact Factor
- European Psychiatry 01/2011; 26:1119-1119. DOI:10.1016/S0924-9338(11)72824-3 · 3.21 Impact Factor