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J Neurosci. 2012 Jan 18;32(3):1082-95. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5566-11.2012.

Predicting aversive events and terminating fear in the mouse anterior cingulate cortex during trace fear conditioning.

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Department of Physiology, University of Toronto, Medical Sciences Building, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A8, Canada.


A variety of studies have implicated the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in fear, including permanent storage of fear memory. Recent pharmacological and genetic studies indicate that early synaptic plasticity in the ACC may also contribute to certain forms of fear memory at early time points. However, no study has directly examined the possible changes in neuronal activity of ACC neurons in freely behaving mice during early learning. In the present study, we examined the neural responses of the ACC during trace fear conditioning. We found that ACC putative pyramidal and nonpyramidal neurons were involved in the termination of fear behavior ("un-freezing"), and the spike activity of these neurons was reduced during freezing. Some of the neurons were also found to acquire un-freezing locked activity and change their tuning. The results implicate the ACC neurons in fear learning and controlling the abolition of fear behavior. We also show that the ACC is important for making cue-related fear memory associations in the trace fear paradigm as measured with tone-evoked potentials and single-unit activity. Collectively, our findings indicate that the ACC is involved in predicting future aversive events and terminating fear during trace fear.

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