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Nat Neurosci. 2014 Jan;17(1):106-13. doi: 10.1038/nn.3582. Epub 2013 Nov 17.

Prefrontal entrainment of amygdala activity signals safety in learned fear and innate anxiety.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.
2
Department of Neuroscience, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.
3
1] Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA. [2] Division of Integrative Neuroscience, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York, USA.
4
1] Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA. [2] Department of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York, USA. [3] Division of Integrative Neuroscience, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York, USA.

Abstract

Successfully differentiating safety from danger is an essential skill for survival. While decreased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is associated with fear generalization in animals and humans, the circuit-level mechanisms used by the mPFC to discern safety are not clear. To answer this question, we recorded activity in the mPFC, basolateral amygdala (BLA) and dorsal and ventral hippocampus in mice during exposure to learned (differential fear conditioning) and innate (open field) anxiety. We found increased synchrony between the mPFC and BLA in the theta frequency range (4-12 Hz) only in animals that differentiated between averseness and safety. Moreover, during recognized safety across learned and innate protocols, BLA firing became entrained to theta input from the mPFC. These data suggest that selective tuning of BLA firing to mPFC input provides a safety-signaling mechanism whereby the mPFC taps into the microcircuitry of the amygdala to diminish fear.

PMID:
24241397
PMCID:
PMC4035371
DOI:
10.1038/nn.3582
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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