Fast spiking and regular spiking neural correlates of fear conditioning in the medial prefrontal cortex of the rat

Cereb Cortex. 2001 May;11(5):441-51. doi: 10.1093/cercor/11.5.441.


In order to investigate whether and how medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of the rat is involved in processing of information related to fear conditioning, we recorded from single units in the prelimbic and infralimbic cortex of fear-conditioned rats in response to an explicit conditional stimulus (CS; an auditory tone) or contextual cues (conditioning box). The majority of units changed their activities significantly in response to the CS in a delay or trace conditioning paradigm. Both transient and tonic activity changes, including delay cell activity, were observed as in other behavioral tasks. When exposed to the context without CS delivery, most units changed their activities as well. These results show that both tone and contextual information are processed in the rat mPFC in expectation of the delivery of an aversive stimulus (electric foot shock). Interestingly, fast spiking cells (putative inhibitory interneurons) and regular spiking cells (putative projection neurons) showed different patterns of responses. Fast spiking cells tended to show transient responses and increased their firing rates following CS presentation, whereas a complementary pattern was observed in the regular spiking cells. Our results enhance our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying prediction of an aversive stimulus in the mPFC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Fear / psychology
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley