Post-training re-exposure to fear conditioned stimuli enhances memory consolidation and biases rats toward the use of dorsolateral striatum-dependent response learning.
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In a dual-solution task that can be acquired using either hippocampus-dependent "place" or dorsolateral striatum-dependent "response" learning, emotional arousal induced by unconditioned stimuli (e.g. anxiogenic drug injections or predator odor exposure) biases rats toward response learning. In the present experiments emotionally-arousing conditioned stimuli were used to modulate the relative use of multiple memory systems. In Experiment 1, adult male Long-Evans rats initially received three standard fear-conditioning trials in which a tone (2 kHz, 75 dB) was paired with a brief electrical shock (1 mA, 2s). On day 2, the rats were trained in a dual-solution plus-maze task to swim from the same start arm (South) to a hidden escape platform always located in the same goal arm (East). Immediately following training, rats received post-training re-exposure to the fear-conditioned stimuli (i.e. tone and context) without shock. On day 3, the relative use of place or response learning was assessed on a probe trial in which rats were started from the opposite start arm (North). Post-training re-exposure to fear-conditioned stimuli produced preferential use of a response strategy. In Experiment 2, different rats received fear conditioning and were then trained in a single-solution task that required the use of response learning. Immediately following training, rats received post-training re-exposure to the fear-conditioned stimuli without shock. Re-exposure to fear-conditioned stimuli enhanced memory consolidation in the response learning task. Thus, re-exposure to fear-conditioned stimuli biases rats toward the use of dorsolateral striatum-dependent response learning and enhances memory consolidation of response learning.