The hippocampal dentate gyrus is essential for generating contextual memories of fear and drug-induced reward

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2008 Oct;90(3):553-9. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2008.06.008. Epub 2008 Jul 29.


The hippocampus is believed to play a role in processing information relative to the context in which emotionally salient experiences occur but evidence on the specific contribution of the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) to these processes is limited. Here, we have used two classical behavioral paradigms to study the participation of the dorsal DG in context-conditioned reward and context-conditioned fear. Rats received intra-hippocampal vehicle or colchicine injections (4 microg/microl solution; 0.2 microl injections at 10 sites) that damaged the DG but spared other hippocampal subfields. In the first experiment, we used a place conditioning procedure pairing cocaine exposure (20 mg/kg, i.p.) with a specific context and vehicle treatment with another. While rats with sham lesions exhibited preference for the cocaine-paired context following conditioning, rats with lesions of the DG showed no evidence of cocaine-induced place preference. In the second experiment, rats with sham or colchicine lesions received a foot shock in a given context and conditioned freezing was measured upon reexposure to the shock-paired context (2, 24, 48 and 96 h after conditioning). Rats with sham lesions exhibited high levels of conditioned freezing when exposed to the conditioning context but rats with lesions of the DG showed impaired conditioning, behaving as controls that had experienced shock in a different context. These observations indicate that the integrity of the DG is essential for establishing a coherent representation of the context to which emotional experiences, either hedonic or aversive, are bound.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Association Learning / drug effects
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Central Nervous System Agents / pharmacology
  • Cocaine / pharmacology
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology
  • Dentate Gyrus / drug effects
  • Dentate Gyrus / physiology*
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Fear / drug effects
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Retention, Psychology / physiology*
  • Reward


  • Central Nervous System Agents
  • Cocaine