Retrograde Amnesia of Contextual Fear Conditioning: Evidence for Retrosplenial Cortex Involvement in Configural Processing

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It has been suggested that contextual fear conditioning can be supported by either an elemental system, where individual features of the environment are associated with shock, or a configural system, where environmental features are bound together and associated with shock. Although the retrosplenial cortex (RSC) is known to be involved in contextual fear conditioning, it is not clear whether it contributes to the elemental or configural system. To isolate the role of the RSC in contextual fear conditioning, the current experiments examined the influence of RSC lesions on the context preexposure facilitation effect, a procedure known to produce conditioning to a configural representation of context. In Experiment 1, rats that were preexposed to the conditioning context froze more compared to rats that were not, replicating the context preexposure facilitation effect. Although pretraining lesions of the RSC had no impact on the context preexposure facilitation effect (Experiment 2a), posttraining lesions attenuated the effect (Experiment 2b), suggesting that the RSC normally contributes to a configural context representation. Retrohippocampal contributions to contextual fear conditioning are discussed.

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