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Behav Brain Res. 2012 Jun 15;232(1):37-43. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2012.03.037. Epub 2012 Mar 31.

Pharmacological enhancement of calcium-activated potassium channel function reduces the effects of repeated stress on fear memory.

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Department of Cellular, Molecular Pharmacology, The Chicago Medical School, Rosalind Franklin University, North Chicago, IL 60064, USA.


Repeated stress impacts emotion, and can induce mood and anxiety disorders. These disorders are characterized by imbalance of emotional responses. The amygdala is fundamental in expression of emotion, and is hyperactive in many patients with mood or anxiety disorders. Stress also leads to hyperactivity of the amygdala in humans. In rodent studies, repeated stress causes hyperactivity of the amygdala, and increases fear conditioning behavior that is mediated by the basolateral amygdala (BLA). Calcium-activated potassium (K(Ca)) channels regulate BLA neuronal activity, and evidence suggests reduced small conductance K(Ca) (SK) channel function in male rats exposed to repeated stress. Pharmacological enhancement of SK channels reverses the BLA neuronal hyperexcitability caused by repeated stress. However, it is not known if pharmacological targeting of SK channels can repair the effects of repeated stress on amygdala-dependent behaviors. The purpose of this study was to test whether enhancement of SK channel function reverses the effects of repeated restraint on BLA-dependent auditory fear conditioning. We found that repeated restraint stress increased the expression of cued conditioned fear in male rats. However, 1-Ethyl-2-benzimidazolinone (1-EBIO, 1 or 10 mg/kg) or CyPPA (5 mg/kg) administered 30 min prior to testing of fear expression brought conditioned freezing to control levels, with little impact on fear expression in control handled rats. These results demonstrate that enhancement of SK channel function can reduce the abnormalities of BLA-dependent fear memory caused by repeated stress. Furthermore, this indicates that pharmacological targeting of SK channels may provide a novel target for alleviation of psychiatric symptoms associated with amygdala hyperactivity.

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