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Neural Plast. 2017;2017:3750307. doi: 10.1155/2017/3750307. Epub 2017 Jun 18.

Circadian Rhythms in Fear Conditioning: An Overview of Behavioral, Brain System, and Molecular Interactions.

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Department of Genetics & Molecular Neurobiology, Institute of Biology, Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg, Leipziger Straße, 4439120 Magdeburg, Germany.
Center for Behavioral Brain Research, Magdeburg, Germany.


The formation of fear memories is a powerful and highly evolutionary conserved mechanism that serves the behavioral adaptation to environmental threats. Accordingly, classical fear conditioning paradigms have been employed to investigate fundamental molecular processes of memory formation. Evidence suggests that a circadian regulation mechanism allows for a timestamping of such fear memories and controlling memory salience during both their acquisition and their modification after retrieval. These mechanisms include an expression of molecular clocks in neurons of the amygdala, hippocampus, and medial prefrontal cortex and their tight interaction with the intracellular signaling pathways that mediate neural plasticity and information storage. The cellular activities are coordinated across different brain regions and neural circuits through the release of glucocorticoids and neuromodulators such as acetylcholine, which integrate circadian and memory-related activation. Disturbance of this interplay by circadian phase shifts or traumatic experience appears to be an important factor in the development of stress-related psychopathology, considering these circadian components are of critical importance for optimizing therapeutic approaches to these disorders.

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