The infralimbic cortex encodes inhibition irrespective of motivational significance

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Abstract

Evidence indicates that the infralimbic cortex (IL) encodes and retrieves the inhibitory memory produced by fear extinction. Recently, we have shown that the IL is also involved in the inhibitory memory generated by stimulus pre-exposure that causes latent inhibition. These results are surprising because a stimulus undergoing fear extinction carries aversive motivational value, whereas a pre-exposed stimulus is neutral. The present experiments tested the hypothesis that the IL encodes inhibition irrespective of the motivational information about the stimulus. Using rats, we first confirmed that IL activity during stimulus pre-exposure is required for latent inhibition. Then, we found that pharmacological stimulation of the IL facilitated aversive extinction to a stimulus that had been trained and extinguished as an appetitive stimulus. This facilitation was stimulus specific and required appetitive extinction. The same facilitation was found when appetitive extinction was replaced with random presentations of the stimulus and an appetitive outcome. Together, these findings indicate that non-reinforced stimulus presentations establish an inhibitory memory that is reactivated and strengthened in the IL during subsequent aversive extinction. This is consistent with the view that the IL encodes inhibition irrespective of motivational value, suggesting that this brain region plays a general role in inhibitory learning.

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