Temporal factors control hippocampal contributions to fear renewal after extinction

Department of Psychology and Brain Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095-1563, USA.
Hippocampus (Impact Factor: 4.16). 05/2012; 22(5):1096-106. DOI: 10.1002/hipo.20954
Source: PubMed


Fear can be extinguished by repeated exposure to a cue that signals threat. However, extinction does not erase fear, as an extinguished cue presented in a context distinct from that of extinction results in renewed fear of that cue. The hippocampus, which is involved in the formation of contextual representations, is a natural candidate structure for investigations into the neural circuitry underlying fear renewal. Thus far, studies examining the necessity of the hippocampus for fear renewal have produced mixed results. We isolated the conditions under which the hippocampus may be required for renewal. Rats received lesions of the dorsal hippocampus either prior to tone fear conditioning or following extinction. Fear renewal was measured using discrete tone presentations or a long, continuous tone. The topography of fear responding at test was assessed by comparing "early" and "sustained" renewal, where early fear was determined by freezing to the first discrete tone or the equivalent initial segment of a continuous tone and sustained fear was determined by freezing averaged across all discrete tones or the entire continuous tone. We found that following pretraining damage of the hippocampus, early renewal remained intact regardless of lesion condition. However, sustained renewal only persisted in discrete, but not continuous, tone-tested animals. A more extensive analysis of the topography of fear responding revealed that the disruption of renewal was generated when the tone duration at test began to violate that used during extinction, suggesting that the hippocampus is sensitive to mismatches in CS-duration. Postextinction lesions resulted in an overall reduction of fear renewal. This pattern of results is consistent with those observed for contextual fear conditioning, wherein animals display a resistance to anterograde amnesia despite the presence of a strong retrograde amnesia for the same contextual information. Furthermore, the data support a role for the hippocampus in sustaining renewal when the CS duration at test does not match that used during extinction.

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    • "dmPFC, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex; vmPFC, ventromedial prefrontal cortex. region may be especially involved in processing spatial contextual information of relevance to fear memories (Ji and Maren, 2005; Zelikowsky et al., 2012). The dorsal hippocampus was defined as the part of the AAL library definition of the hippocampus posterior to y = −24 mm in MNI space in accordance with a recent definition (Poppenk et al., 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: The maintenance of anxiety disorders is thought to depend, in part, on deficits in extinction memory, possibly due to reduced contextual control of extinction that leads to fear renewal. Animal studies suggest that the neural circuitry responsible fear renewal includes the hippocampus, amygdala, and dorsomedial (dmPFC) and ventromedial (vmPFC) prefrontal cortex. However, the neural mechanisms of context-dependent fear renewal in humans remain poorly understood. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), combined with psychophysiology and immersive virtual reality, to elucidate how the hippocampus, amygdala, and dmPFC and vmPFC interact to drive the context-dependent renewal of extinguished fear. Healthy human participants encountered dynamic fear-relevant conditioned stimuli (CSs) while navigating through 3-D virtual reality environments in the MRI scanner. Conditioning and extinction were performed in two different virtual contexts. Twenty-four hours later, participants were exposed to the CSs without reinforcement while navigating through both contexts in the MRI scanner. Participants showed enhanced skin conductance responses (SCRs) to the previously-reinforced CS+ in the acquisition context on Day 2, consistent with fear renewal, and sustained responses in the dmPFC. In contrast, participants showed low SCRs to the CSs in the extinction context on Day 2, consistent with extinction recall, and enhanced vmPFC activation to the non-reinforced CS-. Structural equation modeling revealed that the dmPFC fully mediated the effect of the hippocampus on right amygdala activity during fear renewal, whereas the vmPFC partially mediated the effect of the hippocampus on right amygdala activity during extinction recall. These results indicate dissociable contextual influences of the hippocampus on prefrontal pathways, which, in turn, determine the level of reactivation of fear associations. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · NeuroImage
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    • "We feel that researchers should carefully compare both measurements and decide on the best choice for their research question. Finally, we would like to stress that in the papers mentioned in Table 1, we see no interpretation problems, as most of these studies did not directly compare freezing between several contexts , and in case they did (Zelikowsky et al., 2012b), contexts were counterbalanced. Note however that, theoretically, even limited measurement deviations between contexts may induce heightened variability when counterbalancing contexts, thereby decreasing the chance of finding significant effects. "
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    ABSTRACT: Behavioral neuroscience is relying more and more on automated behavior assessment, which is often more time-efficient and objective than manual scoring by a human observer. However, parameter adjustment and calibration are a trial-and-error process that requires careful fine-tuning in order to obtain reliable software scores in each context configuration. In this paper, we will pinpoint some caveats regarding the choice of parameters, and give an overview of our own and other researchers' experience with widely used behavioral assessment software. We conclude that, although each researcher should weigh the pros and cons of relying on software vs. manual scoring, we should be aware of possible divergence between both scores, which might be especially relevant when dealing with subtle behavioral effects, like for example in generalization or genetic research.
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    • "Early studies suggested that the HPC was required for contextual but not discrete cue conditioning (Selden et al., 1991; Phillips & LeDoux, 1992). However, both dHPC and vHPC lesions can reduce freezing to discrete cues under some circumstances (Richmond et al., 1999; Maren & Holt, 2004; Maren, 2008; Quinn et al., 2008; Zelikowsky et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Lesion and electrophysiological studies in rodents have identified the amygdala and hippocampus (HPC) as key structures for Pavlovian fear conditioning, but human functional neuroimaging studies have not consistently found activation of these structures. This could be because hemodynamic responses cannot detect the sparse neuronal activity proposed to underlie conditioned fear. Alternatively, differences in experimental design or fear levels could account for the discrepant findings between rodents and humans. To help distinguish between these alternatives, we used tissue oxygen amperometry to record hemodynamic responses from the basolateral amygdala (BLA), dorsal HPC (dHPC) and ventral HPC (vHPC) in freely-moving rats during the acquisition and extinction of conditioned fear. To enable specific comparison with human studies we used a discriminative paradigm, with one auditory cue [conditioned stimulus (CS)+] that was always followed by footshock, and another auditory cue (CS-) that was never followed by footshock. BLA tissue oxygen signals were significantly higher during CS+ than CS- trials during training and early extinction. In contrast, they were lower during CS+ than CS- trials by the end of extinction. dHPC and vHPC tissue oxygen signals were significantly lower during CS+ than CS- trials throughout extinction. Thus, hemodynamic signals in the amygdala and HPC can detect the different patterns of neuronal activity evoked by threatening vs. neutral stimuli during fear conditioning. Discrepant neuroimaging findings may be due to differences in experimental design and/or fear levels evoked in participants. Our methodology offers a way to improve translation between rodent models and human neuroimaging.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2012 · European Journal of Neuroscience
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