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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23538. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023538. Epub 2011 Aug 15.

Role of reuniens nucleus projections to the medial prefrontal cortex and to the hippocampal pyramidal CA1 area in associative learning.

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División de Neurociencias, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Sevilla, Spain.


We studied the interactions between short- and long-term plastic changes taking place during the acquisition of a classical eyeblink conditioning and following high-frequency stimulation (HFS) of the reuniens nucleus in behaving mice. Synaptic changes in strength were studied at the reuniens-medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the reuniens-CA1 synapses. Input/output curves and a paired-pulse study enabled determining the functional capabilities of the two synapses and the optimal intensities to be applied at the reuniens nucleus during classical eyeblink conditioning and for HFS applied to the reuniens nucleus. Animals were conditioned using a trace paradigm, with a tone as conditioned stimulus (CS) and an electric shock to the trigeminal nerve as unconditioned stimulus (US). A single pulse was presented to the reuniens nucleus to evoke field EPSPs (fEPSPs) in mPFC and CA1 areas during the CS-US interval. No significant changes in synaptic strength were observed at the reuniens-mPFC and reuniens-CA1 synapses during the acquisition of eyelid conditioned responses (CRs). Two successive HFS sessions carried out during the first two conditioning days decreased the percentage of CRs, without evoking any long-term potentiation (LTP) at the recording sites. HFS of the reuniens nucleus also prevented the proper acquisition of an object discrimination task. A subsequent study revealed that HFS of the reuniens nucleus evoked a significant decrease of paired-pulse facilitation. In conclusion, reuniens nucleus projections to prefrontal and hippocampal circuits seem to participate in the acquisition of associative learning through a mechanism that does not required the development of LTP.

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