Nucleus reuniens mediates the extinction of contextual fear conditioning
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Learning and remembering the context in which events occur requires interactions between the hippocampus (HPC) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). The nucleus reuniens (RE) is a ventral midline thalamic nucleus that coordinates activity in the mPFC and HPC and is involved in spatial and contextual memory. We recently found that the RE is critical for contextual fear conditioning in rats, a form of learning that involves interactions between the HPC and mPFC. Here we examined whether the RE mediates the extinction of contextual fear. After contextual fear conditioning, rats underwent an extinction procedure in which they were merely exposed to the conditioning context; freezing behavior during the extinction procedure and during a retrieval test 24 h later served as an index of conditioned fear. Muscimol inactivation of the RE prior to extinction impaired the acquisition of both short- and long-term extinction memories. Similarly, inactivation of the RE prior to the extinction retrieval test also impaired the expression of extinction; this effect was not state-dependent. Taken together, these results reveal that the extinction of contextual fear memories requires the RE, which is consistent with a broader role for the RE in forms of learning that require HPC-mPFC interactions.
author list (cited authors)
Ramanathan, K. R., & Maren, S.