The medial prefrontal cortex and the basolateral amygdala (BLA) are essential for discriminating between harmful and safe stimuli. The primary auditory cortex (Te1) sends projections to both sites, but whether and how it interacts with these areas during fear discrimination are poorly understood. Here we show that in male rats that can differentiate between a new tone and a threatening one, the selective optogenetic inhibition of Te1 axon terminals into the prelimbic (PL) cortex shifted discrimination to fear generalization. Meanwhile, no effects were detected when Te1 terminals were inhibited in the BLA. Using a combination of local field potential and multiunit recordings, we show that in animals that discriminate successfully between a new tone and a harmful one, the activity of the Te1 and the PL cortex becomes immediately and tightly synchronized in the slow-gamma range (40-70 Hz) at the onset of the new tone. This enhanced synchronization was not present in other frequency ranges, such as the theta range. Critically, the level of gamma synchrony predicted the behavioral choice (i.e., no freezing or freezing) of the animals. Moreover, in the same rats, gamma synchrony was absent before the fear-learning trial and when animals should discriminate between an olfactory stimulus and the auditory harmful one. Thus, our findings reveal that the Te1 and the PL cortex dynamically establish a functional connection during auditory fear-discrimination processes, and that this corticocortical oscillatory mechanism drives the behavioral choice of the animals.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Identifying neural networks that infer safety versus danger is of great interest in the scientific field. Fear generalization reduces the chances of an animal's survival and leads to psychiatric diseases, such as post-traumatic stress disorders and phobias in humans. Here we demonstrate that animals able to differentiate a new tone from a previous threating tone showed synchronization between the prefrontal and primary auditory cortices. Critically, this connectivity precedes and predicts the behavioral outcome of the animal. Optogenetic inhibition of this functional connectivity leads to fear generalization. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to demonstrate that a corticocortical dialogue occurring between sensory and prefrontal areas is a key node for fear-discrimination processes.

Coherent activity between the prelimbic and auditory cortex in the slow-gamma band underlies fear discrimination

Cambiaghi, Marco;
2018-01-01

Abstract

The medial prefrontal cortex and the basolateral amygdala (BLA) are essential for discriminating between harmful and safe stimuli. The primary auditory cortex (Te1) sends projections to both sites, but whether and how it interacts with these areas during fear discrimination are poorly understood. Here we show that in male rats that can differentiate between a new tone and a threatening one, the selective optogenetic inhibition of Te1 axon terminals into the prelimbic (PL) cortex shifted discrimination to fear generalization. Meanwhile, no effects were detected when Te1 terminals were inhibited in the BLA. Using a combination of local field potential and multiunit recordings, we show that in animals that discriminate successfully between a new tone and a harmful one, the activity of the Te1 and the PL cortex becomes immediately and tightly synchronized in the slow-gamma range (40-70 Hz) at the onset of the new tone. This enhanced synchronization was not present in other frequency ranges, such as the theta range. Critically, the level of gamma synchrony predicted the behavioral choice (i.e., no freezing or freezing) of the animals. Moreover, in the same rats, gamma synchrony was absent before the fear-learning trial and when animals should discriminate between an olfactory stimulus and the auditory harmful one. Thus, our findings reveal that the Te1 and the PL cortex dynamically establish a functional connection during auditory fear-discrimination processes, and that this corticocortical oscillatory mechanism drives the behavioral choice of the animals.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Identifying neural networks that infer safety versus danger is of great interest in the scientific field. Fear generalization reduces the chances of an animal's survival and leads to psychiatric diseases, such as post-traumatic stress disorders and phobias in humans. Here we demonstrate that animals able to differentiate a new tone from a previous threating tone showed synchronization between the prefrontal and primary auditory cortices. Critically, this connectivity precedes and predicts the behavioral outcome of the animal. Optogenetic inhibition of this functional connectivity leads to fear generalization. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to demonstrate that a corticocortical dialogue occurring between sensory and prefrontal areas is a key node for fear-discrimination processes.
2018
auditory cortex; fear discrimination; fear generalization; gamma and theta activity; prefrontal cortex
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11562/995472
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