Pathway Specific Activation of Ventral Hippocampal Cells Projecting to the Prelimbic Cortex Diminishes Fear Renewal

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The ability to learn that a stimulus no longer signals danger is known as extinction. A major characteristic of extinction is that it is context-dependent, which means that fear reduction only occurs in the same context as extinction training. In other contexts, there is re-emergence of fear, known as contextual renewal. The ability to properly extinguish fear memories and generalize safety associations to multiple contexts provides therapeutic potential, but little is known about the specific neural pathways that mediate fear renewal and extinction generalization. The ventral hippocampus (VH) is thought to provide a contextual gating mechanism that determines whether fear or safety is expressed in particular contexts through its projections to areas of the fear circuit, including the infralimbic (IL) and prelimbic (PL) cortices. Moreover, VH principal cells fire in large, overlapping regions of the environment, a characteristic that is ideal to support generalization; yet it is unclear how different projection cells mediate this process. Using a pathway-specific (intersectional) chemogenetic approach, we demonstrate that selective activation of VH cells projecting to PL attenuates fear renewal without affecting fear expression. These results have implications for anxiety disorders since they uncover a neural pathway associated with extinction generalization.




Academic Press Inc.

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Neurobiology of Learning and Memory