Electrolytic lesions of the fimbria/fornix, dorsal hippocampus, or entorhinal cortex produce anterograde deficits in contextual fear conditioning in rats.
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Recent data indicate that dorsal hippocampal (DH) lesions disrupt Pavlovian fear conditioning to contextual cues in rats. In the present study, we examined the effects of electrolytic lesions of the fimbria/fornix (FX) or entorhinal cortex (EC), the primary afferent projection systems to the DH, on contextual fear conditioning in rats. Conditioning consisted of the delivery of unsignaled footshocks in a novel observation chamber, and freezing served as the measure of conditional fear. Electrolytic lesions of the FX, DH, or EC made 1 week before training produced anterograde impairments in both immediate postshock freezing on the conditioning day and freezing during the context extinction test 24 h following training. The deficits in conditional freezing produced by FX, DH, and EC lesions were not statistically different, although the deficits in rats with FX or EC lesions tended to be more severe than those in rats with DH lesions. In addition to producing deficits in conditional freezing, FX, DH, or EC lesions produced a pronounced locomotor hyperactivity. Within the lesion and sham groups, however, locomotor activity was not significantly correlated with conditional freezing. These results indicate that contextual fear deficits in rats with hippocampal formation damage are equivalent following either FX, DH, or EC lesions. The relationship of freezing deficits and locomotor hyperactivity in rats with hippocampal formation lesions is discussed.