Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis regulates fear to ambiguous threat signals Academic Article uri icon



    The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) has been implicated in conditioned fear and anxiety, but the specific factors that engage the BNST in defensive behaviors are unclear. Here we examined whether the BNST mediates freezing to conditioned stimuli (CSs) that poorly predict the onset of aversive unconditioned stimuli (USs) in rats. Reversible inactivation of the BNST selectively reduced freezing to CSs that poorly signaled US onset (e.g., a backward CS that followed the US), but did not eliminate freezing to forward CSs even when they predicted USs of variable intensity. Additionally, backward (but not forward) CSs selectively increased Fos in the ventral BNST and in BNST-projecting neurons in the infralimbic region of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), but not in the hippocampus or amygdala. These data reveal that BNST circuits regulate fear to unpredictable threats, which may be critical to the etiology and expression of anxiety.


    The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) is required for the expression of defensive behavior to unpredictable threats, a function that may be central to pathological anxiety.

author list (cited authors)

  • Goode, T. D., Ressler, R. L., Acca, G. M., Miles, O. W., & Maren, S.

publication date

  • January 1, 2018 11:11 AM