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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2007 Sep;32(9):1929-40. Epub 2007 Jan 10.

Acquisition of fear extinction requires activation of NR2B-containing NMDA receptors in the lateral amygdala.

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Center for Neural Science, New York University, 4 Washington Place, New York, NY 10003, USA.


N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) contribute to synaptic plasticity underlying learning in a variety of brain systems. Fear extinction, which involves learning to suppress the expression of previously learned fear, appears to require NMDAR activation in the amygdala. However, it is unclear whether amygdala NMDARs are required for the acquisition of extinction learning, and it is unknown whether NR2B-containing NMDARs are required in fear extinction. Here, we assessed the effects of selective NR2B blockade with ifenprodil on fear extinction learning, and found that both systemic and intra-amygdala ifenprodil treatment, given before extinction training, impaired the initial acquisition, and subsequent retrieval of fear extinction. These results confirm previous evidence showing that NMDARs in the amygdala are involved in fear extinction, and additionally show that NR2B-containing NMDARs are required. Contrary to the conclusion of previous studies, our findings demonstrate NMDARs are required for the initial acquisition, rather than only the retention, of fear extinction learning. Thus, our results support a previously not known role for NMDA-dependent plasticity in the lateral amygdala during the acquisition of fear extinction.

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