Single-Unit Activity in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex during Immediate and Delayed Extinction of Fear in Rats
Delivering extinction trials minutes after fear conditioning yields only a short-term fear suppression that fully recovers the following day. Because extinction has been reported to increase CS-evoked spike firing and spontaneous bursting in the infralimbic (IL) division of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), we explored the possibility that this immediate extinction deficit is related to altered mPFC function. Single-units were simultaneously recorded in rats from neurons in IL and the prelimbic (PrL) division of the mPFC during an extinction session conducted 10 minutes (immediate) or 24 hours (delayed) after auditory fear conditioning. In contrast to previous reports, IL neurons exhibited CS-evoked responses early in extinction training in both immediate and delayed conditions and these responses decreased in magnitude over the course of extinction training. During the retention test, CS-evoked firing in IL was significantly greater in animals that failed to acquire extinction. Spontaneous bursting during the extinction and test sessions was also different in the immediate and delayed groups. There were no group differences in PrL activity during extinction or retention testing. Alterations in both spontaneous and CS-evoked neuronal activity in the IL may contribute to the immediate extinction deficit.
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