Individual variability in the recall of fear extinction is associated with phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase in the infralimbic cortex
Although most individuals will be exposed to trauma at some point, only a small portion of individuals develops posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suggesting there are factors which render some individuals particularly susceptible to the development of this disorder. One cardinal feature of PTSD is the failure to extinguish fear responses to cues that once signaled danger. Rodent studies of fear learning and extinction have provided insight into the neural mechanisms underlying extinction; however, most of these studies have focused on mechanisms involved in typical responses and fewer have identified mechanisms that distinguish animals that extinguish well versus those that do not extinguish their fear responses. Investigation of individual differences in fear extinction might help us better understand the susceptibility to and development of PTSD.
In order to understand the neural mechanisms underlying such variation, we assessed phosphorylated mitogen-activated protein kinase (P-MAPK) levels in infralimbic cortex (IL), basolateral amygdala (BLA), and dorsal hippocampus in subsets of rats which exhibited good or poor recall of extinction.
We found a relationship between extinction recall and P-MAPK in the IL such that rats which had good extinction recall had higher levels of P-MAPK than those which had poor extinction recall. We also found that rats which had good extinction recall had higher levels of P-MAPK in the dorsal hippocampus than control rats.
Our findings suggest that individual differences in the recall of extinction learning can be explained by altered cell signaling in the IL.
KeywordsFear conditioning Fear memory extinction Infralimbic cortex Mitogen-activated protein kinase Posttraumatic stress disorder
ASR and RGP were responsible for the study design. ASR, JL, and RGP performed the experiments and analyzed data. All authors have critically reviewed the content and approved the final version submitted for publication.
This work was supported by startup funds from Stony Brook University.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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