Enhancement of conditioned fear extinction by infusion of the GABA(A) agonist muscimol into the rat prefrontal cortex and amygdala

Irit Akirav, Hagit Raizel, Mouna Maroun
European Journal of Neuroscience 2006, 23 (3): 758-64
In auditory fear conditioning, repeated presentation of the tone in the absence of the shock leads to extinction of the acquired fear response. Both the infra limbic prefrontal cortex (IL) and the basolateral amygdala (BLA) are involved in extinction. In this study, we examine the involvement of these two regions in extinction by manipulating the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic system, in the Sprague-Dawley rat. We microinfused a low dose of the GABA(A) agonist muscimol into the IL or BLA. Muscimol infused to IL before extinction training, but not after either a short (five-trials) or long (15-trials) extinction training, resulted in long-term facilitation of extinction. Infusion of muscimol to the BLA following a short (five-trial) extinction session facilitated extinction at least 48-h post-drug infusion. The differences in the temporal parameters of the effects of muscimol in the IL or BLA, suggest differential involvement of these structures in long-term extinction of fear memory. We propose a facilitating role for GABA(A) neurotransmission in the IL in triggering the onset of fear extinction and its maintenance, whereas in the BLA, GABA(A) neurotransmission facilitates extinction consolidation. The involvement of GABA(A) receptors in fear extinction in the prefrontal cortex and amygdala is of particular interest, because of the role of these areas in emotional processes, and the role of the GABA(A) receptors in anxiety states.

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