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Neuropharmacology. 2012 Feb;62(2):638-46. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.07.004. Epub 2011 Jul 19.

Pavlovian fear memory circuits and phenotype models of PTSD.

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Psychiatry and Neuroscience, School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University (USU), Bethesda, MD 20814, USA.


Pavlovian fear conditioning, also known as classical fear conditioning is an important model in the study of the neurobiology of normal and pathological fear. Progress in the neurobiology of Pavlovian fear also enhances our understanding of disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and with developing effective treatment strategies. Here we describe how Pavlovian fear conditioning is a key tool for understanding both the neurobiology of fear and the mechanisms underlying variations in fear memory strength observed across different phenotypes. First we discuss how Pavlovian fear models aspects of PTSD. Second, we describe the neural circuits of Pavlovian fear and the molecular mechanisms within these circuits that regulate fear memory. Finally, we show how fear memory strength is heritable; and describe genes which are specifically linked to both changes in Pavlovian fear behavior and to its underlying neural circuitry. These emerging data begin to define the essential genes, cells and circuits that contribute to normal and pathological fear. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder'.

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