Memory enhancement of classical fear conditioning by post-training injections of corticosterone in rats

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2004 Jan;81(1):67-74. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2003.09.002.


There is extensive evidence that post-training administration of the adrenocortical hormone corticosterone facilitates memory consolidation processes in a variety of contextual and spatial-dependent learning situations. The present experiments examine whether corticosterone can modulate memory of auditory-cue classical fear conditioning, a learning task that is not contingent on contextual or spatial representations. Male Sprague-Dawley rats received three pairings of a single-frequency auditory stimulus and footshock, followed immediately by a post-training subcutaneous injection of either corticosterone (1.0 or 3.0mg/kg) or vehicle. Retention was tested 24h later in a novel test chamber and suppression of ongoing motor behavior served as the measure of conditioned fear. Corticosterone dose-dependently facilitated suppression of motor activity during the 10-s presentation of the auditory cue. As corticosterone administration did not alter responding after unpaired presentations of tone and shock, tone alone, shock alone or absence of tone/shock, the findings indicated that corticosterone selectively facilitated memory of the tone-shock association. Furthermore, injections of corticosterone given 3h after training did not alter motor activity during retention testing, demonstrating that corticosterone enhanced time-dependent memory consolidation processes. These findings provide evidence that corticosterone modulates the consolidation of memory for auditory-cue classical fear conditioning and are consistent with a wealth of data indicating that glucocorticoids can modulate a wide variety of emotionally influenced memories.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / drug effects
  • Association Learning / drug effects*
  • Auditory Perception / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Classical / drug effects*
  • Corticosterone / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fear / drug effects*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Retention, Psychology / drug effects*


  • Corticosterone