Microstimulation Reveals Opposing Influences of Prelimbic and Infralimbic Cortex on the Expression of Conditioned Fear

Ivan Vidal Gonzalez, Department Physiology, Ponce School of Medicine, Ponce, PR 00731, Benjamin Vidal Gonzalez, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez Campus, Mayaguez, PR 00682, Scott L. Rauch, Department Psychiatry, McLean Hospital - Harvard School of Medicine, Belmont, MA 02478, and Gregory J. Quirk, Departments Psychiatry and Anatomy, Unviversity of Puerto Rico - School of Medicine, San Juan, PR 00936.

Recent studies using lesion, infusion, and unit-recording techniques suggest that the infralimbic (IL) subregion of medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is necessary for the inhibition of conditioned fear following extinction. Brief microstimulation of IL paired with conditioned tones, designed to mimic neuronal tone responses, reduces the expression of conditioned fear to the tone. In the present study we used microstimulation to investigate the role of additional mPFC subregions: the prelimbic (PL), dorsal anterior cingulate (ACd), and medial precentral (PrCm) cortices in the expression and extinction of conditioned fear. These are tone-responsive areas that have been implicated in both acquisition and extinction of conditioned fear. In contrast to IL, microstimulation of PL increased the expression of conditioned fear and prevented extinction. Microstimulation of ACd and PrCm had no effect. Under low-footshock conditions (to avoid ceiling levels of freezing), microstimulation of PL and IL had opposite effects, respectively increasing and decreasing freezing to the conditioned tone. We suggest that PL excites amygdala output and IL inhibits amygdala output, providing a mechanism for bidirectional modulation of fear expression.

Web Page: www.md.rcm.upr.edu/quirk/Home.html