Functioning of the Core Neural Network in Fear and Extinction

  • Maxwell Bennett
  • Jim Lagopoulos


Evidence suggests that mechanisms that underlie anxiety have much in common with Pavlovian fear conditioning (Pitman et al. 1999; LeDoux 2000; Bouton et al. 2001; Sullivan et al. 2003; Maren and Quirk 2004; Shin et al. 2006; Bremner et al. 2008; Graham and Milad 2011) and is conserved across species (Phelps and LeDoux 2005; LeDoux 2014). The Pavlovian fear response to a conditioned stimulus (CS; say a tone) in conjunction with a unconditioned stimulus (US; say a shock) is learnt in dorsal lateral amygdala (LAd) and retained for long periods up to years (Quirk et al. 1995; Rogan et al. 1997; Pape and Pare 2010) following only a few US-CS pairings (McAllister et al. 1986; Gale et al. 2004). This learning involves the phenomenon of long-term potentiation (LTP) (McKernan and Shinnick-Gallagher 1997; Tsvetkov et al. 2002; Cho et al. 2013). On the other hand, extinction occurs with repeated presentations of the CS in the absence of the US, which leads to gradual decay in the fear response (Pavlov 1927; Rescorla 2002; Maren and Quirk 2004; Myers and Davis 2007). This is dependent on the establishment of an extinction memory rather than decay of the fear memory (Herry et al. 2008). There is a considerable literature implicating N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, together with LTP, in the formation of these memories (see, e.g. Schafe et al. 2001; Lin et al. 2003a, b; Quirk et al. 2010; Dalton et al. 2012) and pharmacological treatments sought to potentiate LTP in extinction (see, e.g. Lin et al. 2003a, b; Ressler et al. 2004; Davis et al. 2006). In this work a review is first presented on the mechanisms in the amygdala involved in establishing and stabilizing this extinction memory (Sects. 6.1–6.3). Existing models of these processes are next considered (Sect. 6.4) before a new model is presented (Sect. 6.5) that incorporates the most recent observations in a coherent framework.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maxwell Bennett
    • 1
  • Jim Lagopoulos
    • 2
  1. 1.The University of SydneyBrain and Mind CentreCamperdown NSWAustralia
  2. 2.Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience Thompson InstituteUniversity of Sunshine CoastBirtinyaAustralia

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