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Ann Med. 2010 Mar;42(2):115-22. doi: 10.3109/07853890903583666.

A translational bridge between mouse and human models of learned safety.

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Department of Neuroscience, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.



Learned safety is established by negatively correlating the occurrence of a neutral stimulus and a noxious stimulus, which renders the previously neutral stimulus a 'safety signal'. While the neurophysiological and molecular mechanisms have been characterized in mice, it is currently not known how the neural substrates involved compare between mice and people.


Here we attempt to adapt the original animal protocol to humans and use functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine neural responses to the conditioned stimulus in safety conditioned and fear conditioned subjects. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used in a parallel group of subjects as a first approach to delineate the underlying neural circuitry.


Learned safety is associated with dampened amygdala and increased dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and caudate responses and paralleled by pupillary constriction. A neural connection between the amygdala and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is suggested by DTI.


We present a translational bridge between mouse and human models of learned safety in which cellular and molecular insights from animal experiments are extended to the human neural circuitry. This study provides an example of how animal experiments can be used to inform and target human studies, which in turn can corroborate results obtained in experimental animals.

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