Selective Impairment of Long-Term but Not Short-Term Conditional Fear by the N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Antagonist APV

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Previous research has indicated that the competitive N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist APV (DL-2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate) prevents the Pavlovian conditioning of fear to contextual stimuli when tested 24 hr, but not immediately, after training. The present study investigated this differential time-dependent effect of APV on fear conditioning. Rats were given either APV or saline and presented with 3 footshocks in a distinctive chamber. Promptly after the shock, rats that had received APV exhibited a species-typical fear response—freezing. However, the freezing lasted for only a short period of time (< 3 min) compared with that of controls. An immediate-shock procedure showed that freezing was entirely a conditional response to the chamber. In addition, the results of a savings test suggest that APV impairs storage rather than retrieval processes. These results indicate that there are two temporally distinct associative fear processes, a short-term NMDA-independent conditional fear and a long-term NMDA-dependent conditional fear.

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