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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2010 Sep;94(2):240-6. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2010.06.001. Epub 2010 Jun 9.

Lesion of infralimbic cortex occludes stress effects on retrieval of extinction but not fear conditioning.

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Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Program in Neuroscience, 1101 East 10th Street, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, United States.


Chronic stress produces dendritic retraction in medial prefrontal cortex and impairs retrieval of extinction of conditioned fear, a behavior mediated by the infralimbic region (IL) of medial prefrontal cortex. To test the hypothesis that stress-induced changes in IL contribute to the stress-induced impairment in extinction retrieval, we performed an occlusion experiment in which we assessed the effects of stress alone, lesion of IL alone, and the combined effects of stress and lesion on extinction retrieval. If IL is the substrate upon which stress acts to produce deficits in extinction retrieval, then prior removal of IL should prevent the effect of stress on extinction retrieval. Rats received either sham or ibotenic acid lesions of IL. Rats in each group then remained unstressed or underwent daily restraint stress for 1week. Following the final day of restraint, rats received five habituation trials to a 30-s tone, followed by seven pairings of the tone with a 500-ms coterminating footshock. One hour later, rats received tone-alone extinction trials. On the following day, rats were given two extinction trials to test for extinction retrieval. Percent freezing was assessed throughout. Stress increased freezing during conditioning, and IL lesion did not block this effect. Either IL lesion alone or stress alone increased freezing on initial extinction trials. IL lesion did not attenuate the effect of stress during initial extinction. Similarly, IL lesion alone and stress alone produced deficits in extinction retrieval. However, stressed rats with IL lesions showed extinction retrieval comparable to that seen in unstressed, sham-lesioned rats. Thus, lesion of IL occluded the stress-induced impairment of extinction retrieval but failed to prevent the stress-induced facilitation of fear conditioning. This dissociation suggests that the effects of stress on these two aspects of emotion regulation are mediated at least in part by independent mechanisms, and that stress-induced changes in IL contribute to stress-induced deficits in extinction retrieval.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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