Faced with potential harm, individuals must estimate the probability of threat and initiate an appropriate fear response. In the prevailing view, threat probability estimates are relayed to the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG), to organize fear output. A straightforward prediction is that vlPAG single-unit activity reflects fear output, invariant of threat probability. We recorded vlPAG single-unit activity in male, Long Evans rats undergoing fear discrimination. Three 10-s auditory cues predicted unique foot shock probabilities: danger (p = 1.00), uncertainty (p = 0.375) and safety (p = 0.00). Fear output was measured by suppression of reward seeking over the entire cue and in one-second cue intervals. Cued fear non-linearly scaled to threat probability and cue-responsive vlPAG single-units scaled their firing on one of two timescales: at onset or ramping toward shock delivery. VlPAG onset activity reflected threat probability, invariant of fear output, while ramping activity reflected both signals with threat probability prioritized.
- Michael A McDannald
- Michael A McDannald
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: This study was performed in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health. All of the animals were handled according to approved institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) protocols (#2018-002) of Boston College. All surgery was performed under isofluorane anesthesia, and every effort was made to minimize suffering.
- Geoffrey Schoenbaum, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, United States
© 2019, Wright & McDannald
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
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Climbing fibers (CFs) generate complex spikes (CS) and Ca2+ transients in cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs), serving as instructive signals. The so-called 'all-or-none' character of CSs has been questioned since the CF burst was described. Although recent studies have indicated a sensory-driven enhancement of PC Ca2+ signals, how CF responds to sensory events and contributes to PC dendritic Ca2+ and CS remains unexplored. Here, single or simultaneous Ca2+ imaging of CFs and PCs in awake mice revealed the presynaptic CF Ca2+ amplitude encoded the sensory input’s strength and directly influenced post-synaptic PC dendritic Ca2+ amplitude. The sensory-driven variability in CF Ca2+ amplitude depended on the number of spikes in the CF burst. Finally, the spike number of the CF burst determined the PC Ca2+ influx and CS properties. These results reveal the direct translation of sensory information-coding CF inputs into PC Ca2+, suggesting the sophisticated role of CFs as error signals.
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