In many cases of trauma, the same environmental stimuli that become associated with aversive events are experienced on other occasions without adverse consequence. We examined neural circuits underlying partially reinforced fear (PRF), whereby mice received tone-shock pairings on half of conditioning trials. Tone-elicited freezing was lower after PRF conditioning than fully reinforced fear (FRF) conditioning, despite an equivalent number of tone-shock pairings. PRF preferentially activated medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). Chemogenetic inhibition of BNST-projecting mPFC neurons increased PRF, not FRF, freezing. Multiplexing chemogenetics with in vivo neuronal recordings showed elevated infralimbic cortex (IL) neuronal activity during CS-onset and freezing-cessation; these neural correlates were abolished by chemogenetic mPFC®BNST inhibition. These data suggest mPFC®BNST neurons limit fear to threats with a history of partial association with an aversive stimulus, with potential implications for understanding the neural basis of trauma-related disorders.
Some of the data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files. Source data files have been provided for Figure 1.
- Andrew Holmes
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: All experimental procedures were approved by the NIAAA (protocol # LBGN-AH-01) and Santa Clara University (SCU AWA: D18-01042) Animal Care and Use Committees and followed the NIH guidelines outlined in 'Using Animals in Intramural Research' and the local Animal Care and Use Committees.
- Mihaela D Iordanova, Concordia University, Canada
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