Locus coeruleus toggles reciprocal prefrontal firing to reinstate fear Academic Article uri icon


  • The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) plays an essential role in regulating emotion, including inhibiting fear when danger has passed. The extinction of fear, however, is labile and a number of factors, including stress, cause extinguished fear to relapse. Here we show that fear relapse in rats limits single-unit activity among infralimbic (IL) neurons, which are critical for inhibiting fear responses, and facilitates activity in prelimbic (PL) neurons involved in fear expression. Pharmacogenetic activation of noradrenergic neurons in the locus coeruleus mimics this shift in reciprocal IL-PL spike firing, increases the expression of conditioned freezing behavior, and causes relapse of extinguished fear. Noradrenergic modulation of mPFC firing represents a mechanism for relapse and a potential target for therapeutic interventions to reduce pathological fear.

altmetric score

  • 55.9

author list (cited authors)

  • Giustino, T. F., Fitzgerald, P. J., Ressler, R. L., & Maren, S.

citation count

  • 17

publication date

  • April 2019