Mice behaviorally selected for high Pavlovian fear memory exhibit fear generalization, HPA-axis alterations and increased basal activity in cortico-limbic circuits

Johnson, Luke R., Bergstrom, Hadley, Le, Thien, Castro-Gomes, Vitor, Tang, Haiying, Selwyn, Reed, Parker, Clarissa C., Palmer, Abraham, Choi, Kwang, Ursano, Robert, & McGuire, Jennifer (2012) Mice behaviorally selected for high Pavlovian fear memory exhibit fear generalization, HPA-axis alterations and increased basal activity in cortico-limbic circuits. In 2012 Neuroscience Meeting Planner, 12 - 17 October 2012, New Orleans, Louisiana.

View at publisher


Biological factors underlying individual variability in fearfulness and anxiety have important implications for stress-related psychiatric illness including PTSD and major depression. Using an advanced intercross line (AIL) derived from C57BL/6 and DBA/2J mouse strains and behavioral selection over 3 generations, we established two lines exhibiting High or Low fear behavior after fear conditioning. Across the selection generations, the two lines showed clear differences in training and tests for contextual and conditioned fear. Before fear conditioning training, there were no differences between lines in baseline freezing to a novel context. However, after fear conditioning High line mice demonstrated pronounced freezing in a new context suggestive of poor context discrimination. Fear generalization was not restricted to contextual fear. High fear mice froze to a novel acoustic stimulus while freezing in the Low line did not increase over baseline. Enhanced fear learning and generalization are consistent with transgenic and pharmacological disruption of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis) (Brinks, 2009, Thompson, 2004, Kaouane, 2012). To determine whether there were differences in HPA-axis regulation between the lines, morning urine samples were collected to measure basal corticosterone. Levels of secreted corticosterone in the circadian trough were analyzed by corticosterone ELISA. High fear mice were found to have higher basal corticosterone levels than low line animals. Examination of hormonal stress response components by qPCR revealed increased expression of CRH mRNA and decreased mRNA for MR and CRHR1 in hypothalamus of high fear mice. These alterations may contribute to both the behavioral phenotype and higher basal corticosterone in High fear mice. To determine basal brain activity in vivo in High and Low fear mice we used manganese-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MEMRI). Analysis revealed a pattern of basal brain activity made up of amygdala, cortical and hippocampal circuits that was elevated in the High line. Ongoing studies also seek to determine the relative balance of excitatory and inhibitory tone in the amygdala and hippocampus and the neuronal structure of its neurons. While these heterogeneous lines are selected on fear memory expression, HPA-axis alterations and differences in hippocampal activity segregate with the behavioral phenotypes. These differences are detectable in a basal state strongly suggesting these are biological traits underlying the behavioral phenotype (Johnson et al, 2011).

Impact and interest:

Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

ID Code: 81782
Item Type: Conference Item (Poster)
Refereed: No
Keywords: fear conditioning, magnetic resonance imaging, corticosterone
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > NEUROSCIENCES (110900)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Deposited On: 20 Feb 2015 05:19
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2015 05:36

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page