The effect of hippocampal NMDA receptor blockade by MK-801 on cued fear extinction

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Extinction of conditioned fear has been suggested to be a new form of learning instead of erasure of what was originally learned, and the process is NMDA (N-methyl D-aspartate) receptor (NMDAR) dependent. Most of studies have so far revealed the important roles of NMDARs in the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in cued fear extinction. Although the ventral hippocampus has intimately reciprocal connections with the amygdala and mPFC, the role of its NMDARs in cued fear extinction remains unclear. The present experiment explored the issue by bilateral pre-extinction microinjection of the noncompetitive NMDAR antagonist MK-801 into the ventral hippocampus. Four groups of rats were given habituation, tone cued fear conditioning, fear extinction training and extinction test. Prior to extinction training, rats received bilateral infusions of either MK-801 (1.5, 3, or 6 μg/0.5 μl) or saline. Our results showed that MK-801 reduced freezing on the first trial of extinction training with no impact on within-session acquisition of extinction, and that the lower doses of MK-801 resulted in increased freezing on the extinction retrieval test. These findings suggest that ventral hippocampal NMDARs are necessary for the consolidation of tone cued fear extinction.

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