Effects of bed nucleus of the stria terminalis lesions on conditioned anxiety: aversive conditioning with long-duration conditional stimuli and reinstatement of extinguished fear

Behav Neurosci. 2006 Apr;120(2):324-36. doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.120.2.324.


Four experiments investigated the effects of lesions of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) on conditioned fear and anxiety. Though BNST lesions did not disrupt fear conditioning with a short-duration conditional stimulus (CS; Experiments 1 and 3), the lesion attenuated conditioning with a longer duration CS (Experiments 1 and 2). Experiment 3 found that lesions attenuated reinstatement of extinguished fear, which relies on contextual conditioning. Experiment 4 confirmed that the lesion reduced unconditioned anxiety in an elevated zero maze. The authors suggest that long-duration CSs, whether explicit cues or contexts, evoke anxiety conditioned responses, which are dissociable from fear responses to shorter CSs. Results are consistent with behavioral and anatomical distinctions between fear and anxiety and with a behavior-systems view of defensive conditioning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology*
  • Electroshock / adverse effects
  • Extinction, Psychological / physiology
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Septal Nuclei / injuries
  • Septal Nuclei / physiology*
  • Time Factors