d-Cycloserine facilitates fear extinction in adolescent rats and differentially affects medial and lateral prefrontal cortex activation

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Abstract

Adolescent humans and rodents are impaired in extinguishing learned fear relative to younger and older groups. This impairment could be due to differences in recruitment of medial prefrontal cortex (PFC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), or amygdala during extinction. For example, unlike juveniles and adults, adolescent rats do not express extinction-induced increases in phosphorylated mitogen activated protein kinase (pMAPK), a marker of synaptic plasticity, in the medial PFC. The NMDA receptor partial agonist d-cycloserine (DCS) improves extinction retention in adolescent rats. We investigated whether DCS affected recruitment of the PFC and amygdala during extinction by measuring pMAPK-immunoreactive (IR) neurons. Adolescent rats were trained to fear a conditioned stimulus in one context followed by extinction in a second context or equivalent context exposure only (i.e., no extinction). DCS (15 mg/kg, s.c.) or saline was administered systemically immediately after extinction training or context exposure. DCS enhanced extinction learning and this was associated with increased activation of the MAPK signaling pathway in the OFC after extinction training and increased activation in the medial PFC and amygdala at extinction retention. These findings suggest that DCS improves extinction learning in adolescents because it augments OFC contributions to extinction learning, enabling better medial prefrontal contributions to extinction retention.

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