[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pharmacologically elevating brain endocannabinoids (eCBs) shares anxiolytic and fear extinction-facilitating properties with classical therapeutics, including the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, fluoxetine. There are also known functional interactions between the eCB and serotonin systems and preliminary evidence that antidepressants cause alterations in brain eCBs. However, the potential role of eCBs in mediating the facilitatory effects of fluoxetine on fear extinction has not been established. Here, to test for a possible mechanistic contribution of eCBs to fluoxetine's pro-extinction effects, we integrated biochemical, electrophysiological, pharmacological and behavioral techniques, employing the extinction-impaired 129S1/Sv1mJ mouse strain. Chronic fluoxetine treatment produced a significant and selective increase in levels of anandamide in the BLA, and an associated decrease in activity of the anandamide-catabolizing enzyme, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). Slice electrophysiological recordings showed that fluoxetine-induced increases in anandamide were associated with the amplification of eCB-mediated tonic constraint of inhibitory, but not excitatory, transmission in the BLA. Behaviorally, chronic fluoxetine facilitated extinction retrieval in a manner that was prevented by systemic or BLA-specific blockade of CB1Rs. In contrast to fluoxetine, citalopram treatment did not increase BLA eCBs or facilitate extinction. Taken together, these findings reveal a novel, obligatory role for amygdala eCBs in the pro-extinction effects of a major pharmacotherapy for Trauma- and Stressor-related Disorders and Anxiety Disorders.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 30 October 2015. doi:10.1038/npp.2015.318.
Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology 10/2015; DOI:10.1038/npp.2015.318 · 7.05 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Persistent anxiety after a psychological trauma is a hallmark of many anxiety disorders. However, the neural circuits mediating the extinction of traumatic fear memories remain incompletely understood. We show that selective, in vivo stimulation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)–amygdala pathway facilitated extinction memory formation, but not retrieval. Conversely, silencing the vmPFC-amygdala pathway impaired extinction formation and reduced extinction-induced amygdala activity. Our data demonstrate a critical instructional role for the vmPFC-amygdala circuit in the formation of extinction memories. These findings advance our understanding of the neural basis of persistent fear, with implications for posttraumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Compulsive behavior, which is a hallmark of psychiatric disorders such as addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder, engages corticostriatal circuits. Previous studies indicate a role for corticostriatal N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) in mediating compulsive-like responding for drugs of abuse, but the specific receptor subunits controlling reward-seeking in the face of punishment remain unclear.
The current study assessed the involvement of corticostriatal GluN2B-containing NMDARs in measures of persistent and punished food reward-seeking.
Mice with genetic deletion of GluN2B in one of three distinct neuronal populations, cortical principal neurons, forebrain interneurons, or striatal medium spiny neurons, were tested for (1) sustained food reward-seeking when reward was absent, (2) reward-seeking under a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement, and (3) persistent reward-seeking after a footshock punishment.
Mutant mice with genetic deletion of GluN2B in cortical principal neurons demonstrated attenuated suppression of reward-seeking during punishment. These mice performed normally on other behavioral measures, including an assay for pain sensitivity. Mutants with interneuronal or striatal GluN2B deletions were normal on all behavioral assays.
Current findings offer novel evidence that loss of GluN2B-containing NMDARs expressed on principal neurons in the cortex results in reduced punished food reward-seeking. These data support the involvement of GluN2B subunit in cortical circuits regulating cognitive flexibility in a variety of settings, with implications for understanding the basis of inflexible behavior in neuropsychiatric disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) and addictions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Stress plays a critical role in the development and expression of many psychiatric disorders, and is a defining feature of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Stress also limits the efficacy of behavioral therapies, such as exposure therapy, aimed at limiting pathological fear. Here we examine emerging evidence that stress impairs recovery from trauma by impairing fear extinction, a form of learning thought to underlie the suppression of trauma-related fear memories. We describe the major structural and functional abnormalities in brain regions that are particularly vulnerable to stress, including the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus, which may underlie stress-induced impairments in extinction. We also discuss some of the stress-induced neurochemical and molecular alterations in these brain regions that are associated with extinction deficits, and the potential for targeting these changes to prevent or reverse impaired extinction. A better understanding of the neurobiology of deleterious stress effects on extinction promises to yield novel approaches to improving therapeutic outcomes for PTSD and other anxiety and trauma-related disorders.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 24 June 2015. doi:10.1038/npp.2015.180.
Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology 06/2015; DOI:10.1038/npp.2015.180 · 7.05 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Previous studies have established a role for N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) containing the GluN2B subunit in efficient learning behavior on a variety of tasks. Recent findings have suggested that NMDAR on GABAergic interneurons may underlie the modulation of striatal function necessary to balance efficient action with cortical excitatory input. Here we investigated how loss of GluN2B-containing NMDAR on GABAergic interneurons altered corticostriatal-mediated associative learning. Mutant mice (floxed-GluN2B×Ppp1r2-Cre) were generated to produce loss of GluN2B on forebrain interneurons and phenotyped on a touchscreen-based pairwise visual learning paradigm. We found that the mutants showed normal performance during Pavlovian and instrumental pretraining, but were significantly impaired on a discrimination learning task. Detailed analysis of the microstructure of discrimination performance revealed reduced win→stay behavior in the mutants. These results further support the role of NMDAR, and GluN2B in particular, on modulation of striatal function necessary for efficient choice behavior and suggest that NMDAR on interneurons may play a critical role in associative learning.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The ability to attend to appropriate stimuli, to plan actions and then alter those actions when environmental conditions change, is essential for an organism to thrive. There is increasing evidence that these executive control processes are mediated in part by N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDAR). NMDAR subunits confer different physiological properties to the receptor, interact with distinct intracellular postsynaptic scaffolding and signaling molecules and are differentially expressed during development. Recent findings have suggested that the GluN2B subunit may play a unique role in both the acquisition of adaptive choice and the behavioral flexibility required to shift between choices. Here we investigated the role of GluN2B containing NMDARs in the ability to learn, reverse and shift between stimulus dimensions. Mutant mice (floxed-GluN2B x CaMKII-Cre) lacking GluN2B in the dorsal CA1 of the hippocampus and throughout the cortex were tested on an attentional set-shifting task. To explore the role that alterations in motor behavior may have on these behaviors, gross and fine motor behaviors were analyzed in mutant and floxed-control mice. Results show that corticohippocampal loss of GluN2B selectively impaired an initial reversal in a stimulus specific manner and impaired the ability of mutant mice to form an attentional set. Further, GluN2B mice showed normal motor behavior in both overall movement and individual limb behaviors. Together, these results further support the role of NMDAR, and GluN2B in particular, in aspects of executive control including behavioral flexibility and attentional processes. (PsycINFO Database Record
(c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pathological fear and anxiety are highly debilitating and, despite considerable advances in psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy they remain insufficiently treated in many patients with PTSD, phobias, panic and other anxiety disorders. Increasing preclinical and clinical evidence indicates that pharmacological treatments including cognitive enhancers, when given as adjuncts to psychotherapeutic approaches [cognitive behavioral therapy including extinction-based exposure therapy] enhance treatment efficacy, while using anxiolytics such as benzodiazepines as adjuncts can undermine long-term treatment success. The purpose of this review is to outline the literature showing how pharmacological interventions targeting neurotransmitter systems including serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, histamine, glutamate, GABA, cannabinoids, neuropeptides (oxytocin, neuropeptides Y and S, opioids) and other targets (neurotrophins BDNF and FGF2, glucocorticoids, L-type-calcium channels, epigenetic modifications) as well as their downstream signaling pathways, can augment fear extinction and strengthen extinction memory persistently in preclinical models. Particularly promising approaches are discussed in regard to their effects on specific aspects of fear extinction namely, acquisition, consolidation and retrieval, including long-term protection from return of fear (relapse) phenomena like spontaneous recovery, reinstatement and renewal of fear. We also highlight the promising translational value of the preclinial research and the clinical potential of targeting certain neurochemical systems with, for example D-cycloserine, yohimbine, cortisol, and L-DOPA. The current body of research reveals important new insights into the neurobiology and neurochemistry of fear extinction and holds significant promise for pharmacologically-augmented psychotherapy as an improved approach to treat trauma and anxiety-related disorders in a more efficient and persistent way promoting enhanced symptom remission and recovery.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Traumatic fear memories are highly durable but also dynamic, undergoing repeated reactivation and rehearsal over time. Although overly persistent fear memories underlie anxiety disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, the key neural and molecular mechanisms underlying fear memory durability remain unclear. Postsynaptic density 95 (PSD-95) is a synaptic protein regulating glutamate receptor anchoring, synaptic stability and certain types of memory. Using a loss-of-function mutant mouse lacking the guanylate kinase domain of PSD-95 (PSD-95(GK)), we analyzed the contribution of PSD-95 to fear memory formation and retrieval, and sought to identify the neural basis of PSD-95-mediated memory maintenance using ex vivo immediate-early gene mapping, in vivo neuronal recordings and viral-mediated knockdown (KD) approaches. We show that PSD-95 is dispensable for the formation and expression of recent fear memories, but essential for the formation of precise and flexible fear memories and for the maintenance of memories at remote time points. The failure of PSD-95(GK) mice to retrieve remote cued fear memory was associated with hypoactivation of the infralimbic (IL) cortex (but not the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) or prelimbic cortex), reduced IL single-unit firing and bursting, and attenuated IL gamma and theta oscillations. Adeno-associated virus-mediated PSD-95 KD in the IL, but not the ACC, was sufficient to impair recent fear extinction and remote fear memory, and remodel IL dendritic spines. Collectively, these data identify PSD-95 in the IL as a critical mechanism supporting the durability of fear memories over time. These preclinical findings have implications for developing novel approaches to treating trauma-based anxiety disorders that target the weakening of overly persistent fear memories.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 16 December 2014; doi:10.1038/mp.2014.161.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although the causes of alcohol abuse and alcoholism are complex and still not well understood, one important factor in alcohol abuse is stress. This chapter reviews the current understanding-based on the rodent-based preclinical literature-of the relationship between stress and the seeking and consumption of alcohol. Emerging evidence shows that the corticotropin-releasing factor and neuropeptide Y systems play an important role in determining susceptibility to alcohol abuse, in part by influencing the severity of withdrawal. The ability of stress exposure to increase consumption levels and promote relapse is variable and dependent upon factors including stressor type and chronicity as well as genetic background. Recent research also demonstrates how chronic alcohol exposure can sensitize stress systems, thereby potentially promoting sensitivity to stress-related behaviors and disease. Although modeling the role of stress in propensity for alcohol abuse is challenging, understanding this relationship remains a key factor for the field going forward.
Neurobiology of Alcohol Dependence, Edited by ABC Noronha, C Cui, RA Harris, JC Crabbe, 05/2014: chapter 6: pages 97-110; Elsevier., ISBN: 9780124059412
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The neural factors underlying individual differences in susceptibility to chronic stress remain poorly understood. Preclinical studies demonstrate that mouse strains vary greatly in anxiety-related responses to chronic stress in a manner paralleled by differential stress-induced changes in glutamatergic signaling in the basolateral amygdala (BLA). Previous work has also shown that alterations in the amygdala gene expression of the GluN1 NMDA and the GluK1 kainate receptors are associated with stress-induced alterations in anxiety-like behavior in the C57BL/6J mouse strain. Using in vivo behavioral pharmacological and ex vivo physiological approaches, the aim of the current study was to further elucidate changes in glutamate neurotransmission in the BLA caused by stress and to test the functional roles of GluN1 and GluK1 in mediating stress-related changes in behavior. Results showed that stress-induced alterations in anxiety-like behavior (light/dark exploration test) were absent following bilateral infusion of the GluK1 agonist ATPA into the BLA. Intra-BLA infusion of the competitive NMDA antagonist AP5 produced a generalized behavioral disinhibition/locomotor hyperactivity, irrespective of stress. Slice electrophysiological recordings showed that ATPA augmented BLA GABAergic neurotransmission and that stress increased the amplitude of network-dependent spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents and amplitude of GABAergic miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents in BLA. These findings could indicate stress-induced BLA glutamatergic neuronal network hyperexcitability and a compensatory increase in GABAergic neurotransmission, suggesting that GluK1 agonism augmented GABAergic inhibition to prevent behavioral sequelae of stress. Current data could have implications for developing novel therapeutic approaches, including GluK1 agonists, for stress-related anxiety disorders.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The burden of anxiety disorders is growing but the efficacy of available anxiolytic treatments remains inadequate. Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders focuses on identifying and modifying maladaptive patterns of thinking and behaving, and has a testable analogue in rodents in the form of fear extinction. A large preclinical literature has amassed in recent years describing the neural and molecular basis of fear extinction in rodents. In this review, we discuss how this work is being harnessed to foster translational research on anxiety disorders and facilitate the search for new anxiolytic treatments. We begin by summarizing the anatomical and functional connectivity of a medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC)-amygdala circuit that subserves fear extinction, including value new insights from optogenetics. We then cover some of the approaches that have been taken to model impaired fear extinction and associated impairments with mPFC-amygdala dysfunction. The principal goal of the review is to evaluate evidence that various neurotransmitter and neuromodulator systems mediate fear extinction by modulating of mPFC-amygdala circuitry. We describe studies that have tested how fear extinction is impaired or facilitated by pharmacological manipulations of dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin, γ-amino-butyric acid (GABA), glutamate, neuropeptides, endocannabinoids, and various other systems, that either directly target the mPFC-amygdala circuit or produce behavioral effects that are coincident with functional changes in the circuit. We conclude that there are good grounds to be optimistic that the progress in defining the molecular substrates of mPFC-amygdala circuit function can be effectively leveraged to identify plausible candidates for extinction-promoting therapies for anxiety disorders.
British Journal of Pharmacology 05/2014; 171(20). DOI:10.1111/bph.12779 · 4.84 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) alters neural functions and behaviors mediated by the dorsolateral striatum (DLS) and prefrontal cortex. Here, we examined the effects of prolonged (16-bout) CIE on DLS plasticity and DLS-mediated behaviors. Ex vivo electrophysiological recordings revealed loss in efficacy of DLS synaptically induced activation and absent long-term depression after CIE. CIE increased two-bottle choice drinking and impaired Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer but not discriminated approach. These data suggest prolonged CIE impaired DLS plasticity, to produce associated changes in drinking and cue-controlled reward-seeking. Given recent evidence that less-prolonged CIE can promote certain dorsal striatal-mediated behaviors, CIE may drive chronicity-dependent adaptations in corticostriatal systems regulating behavior.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Touchscreen-based systems are growing in popularity as a tractable, translational approach for studying learning and cognition in rodents. However, while mouse strains are well known to differ in learning across various settings, performance variation between strains in touchscreen learning has not been well described. The selection of appropriate genetic strains and backgrounds is critical to the design of touchscreen-based studies and provides a basis for elucidating genetic factors moderating behavior. Here we provide a quantitative foundation for visual discrimination and reversal learning using touchscreen assays across a total of 35 genotypes. We found significant differences in operant performance and learning, including faster reversal learning in DBA/2J compared to C57BL/6J mice. We then assessed DBA/2J and C57BL/6J for differential sensitivity to an environmental insult by testing for alterations in reversal learning following exposure to repeated swim stress. Stress facilitated reversal learning (selectively during the late stage of reversal) in C57BL/6J, but did not affect learning in DBA/2J. To dissect genetic factors underlying these differences, we phenotyped a family of 27 BXD strains generated by crossing C57BL/6J and DBA/2J. There was marked variation in discrimination, reversal and extinction learning across the BXD strains, suggesting this task may be useful for identifying underlying genetic differences. Moreover, different measures of touchscreen learning were only modestly correlated in the BXD strains, indicating that these processes are comparatively independent at both genetic and phenotypic levels. Finally, we examined the behavioral structure of learning via principal component analysis of the current data, plus an archival dataset, totaling 765 mice. This revealed 5 independent factors suggestive of "reversal learning," "motivation-related late reversal learning," "discrimination learning," "speed to respond," and "motivation during discrimination." Together, these findings provide a valuable reference to inform the choice of strains and genetic backgrounds in future studies using touchscreen-based tasks.
PLoS ONE 02/2014; 9(2):e87745. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0087745 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The neural and genetic factors underlying chronic tolerance to alcohol are currently unclear. The GluN2A N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDAR) subunit and the NMDAR-anchoring protein PSD-95 mediate acute alcohol intoxication and represent putative mechanisms mediating tolerance. We found that chronic intermittent ethanol exposure (CIE) did not produce tolerance [loss of righting reflex (LORR)] or withdrawal-anxiety in C57BL/6J, GluN2A or PSD-95 knockout mice assayed 2-3 days later. However, significant tolerance to LORR was evident 1 day after CIE in C57BL/6J and PSD-95 knockouts, but absent in GluN2A knockouts. These data suggest a role for GluN2A in tolerance, extending evidence that human GluN2A gene variation is involved in alcohol dependence.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The neural circuitry mediating fear extinction has been increasingly well studied and delineated. The rodent infralimbic subregion (IL) of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) has been found to promote extinction, whereas the prelimbic cortex (PL) demonstrates an opposing, pro-fear, function. Studies employing in vivo electrophysiological recordings have observed that while increased IL single-unit firing and bursting predicts robust extinction retrieval, increased PL firing can correlate with sustained fear and poor extinction. These relationships between single-unit firing and extinction do not hold under all experimental conditions, however. In the current study, we further investigated the relationship between vmPFC and PL single-unit firing and extinction using inbred mouse models of intact (C57BL/6J, B6) and deficient (129S1/SvImJ, S1) extinction strains. Simultaneous single-unit recordings were made in the PL and vmPFC (encompassing IL) as B6 and S1 mice performed extinction training and retrieval. Impaired extinction retrieval in S1 mice was associated with elevated PL single-unit firing, as compared to firing in extinguishing B6 mice, consistent with the hypothesized pro-fear contribution of PL. Analysis of local field potentials also revealed significantly higher gamma power in the PL of S1 than B6 mice during extinction training and retrieval. In the vmPFC, impaired extinction in S1 mice was also associated with exaggerated single-unit firing, relative to B6 mice. This is in apparent contradiction to evidence that IL activity promotes extinction, but could reflect a (failed) compensatory effort by the vmPFC to mitigate fear-promoting activity in other regions, such as the PL or amygdala. In support of this hypothesis, augmenting IL activity via direct infusion of the GABAA receptor antagonist picrotoxin rescued impaired extinction retrieval in S1 mice. Chronic fluoxetine treatment produced modest reductions in fear during extinction retrieval and increased the number of Zif268-labeled cells in layer II of IL, but failed to increase vmPFC single-unit firing. Collectively, these findings further support the important contribution these cortical regions play in determining the balance between robust extinction on the one hand, and sustained fear on the other. Elucidating the precise nature of these roles could help inform understanding of the pathophysiology of fear-related anxiety disorders.
Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 11/2013; 113. DOI:10.1016/j.nlm.2013.11.002 · 3.65 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A long-standing literature linking endocannabinoids (ECBs) to stress, fear, and anxiety has led to growing interest in developing novel anxiolytics targeting the ECB system. Following rapid on-demand biosynthesis and degradation upon neuronal activation, the ECB N-arachidonoylethanolamide (anandamide, AEA) is actively degraded by the serine hydrolase enzyme, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). Exposure to stress rapidly mobilizes FAAH to deplete the signaling pool of AEA and increase neuronal excitability in a key anxiety-mediating region - the basolateral amygdala (BLA). Gene deletion or pharmacological inhibition of FAAH prevents stress-induced reductions in AEA and associated increases in BLA dendritic hypertrophy and anxiety-like behavior. Additionally, inhibition of FAAH facilitates long-term fear extinction and rescues deficient fear extinction in rodent models by enhancing AEA-CB1 (cannabinoid type 1) receptor signaling and synaptic plasticity in the BLA. These preclinical findings propose restoring deficient BLA AEA levels by pharmacologically inhibiting FAAH as a mechanism to therapeutically mitigate the effects of traumatic stress.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Serotonin is critical for shaping the development of neural circuits regulating emotion. Pet-1 (FEV-1) is an ETS-domain transcription factor essential for differentiation and forebrain targeting of serotonin neurons. Constitutive Pet-1 knockout (KO) causes major loss of serotonin neurons and forebrain serotonin availability, and behavioral abnormalities. We phenotyped Pet-1 KO mice for fear conditioning and extinction, and on a battery of assays for anxiety- and depression-related behaviors. Morphology of Golgi-stained neurons in basolateral amygdala (BLA) and prelimbic cortex was examined. Using human imaging genetics, a common variant (rs860573) in the PET-1 (FEV) gene was tested for effects on threat-related amygdala reactivity and psychopathology in 88 Asian-ancestry subjects. Pet-1 KO mice exhibited increased acquisition and expression of fear, and elevated fear recovery following extinction, relative to wild-type (WT). BLA dendrites of Pet-1 KO mice were significantly longer than in WT. Human PET-1 variation associated with differences in amygdala threat processing and psychopathology. This novel evidence for the role of Pet-1 on fear processing and dendritic organization of amygdala neurons and on human amygdala threat processing extends a growing literature demonstrating the influence of genetic variation in the serotonin system on emotional regulation via effects on structure and function of underlying corticolimbic circuitry.