Trace fear conditioning enhances synaptic and intrinsic plasticity in rat hippocampus

J Neurophysiol. 2012 Jun;107(12):3397-408. doi: 10.1152/jn.00692.2011. Epub 2012 Mar 21.


Experience-dependent synaptic and intrinsic plasticity are thought to be important substrates for learning-related changes in behavior. The present study combined trace fear conditioning with both extracellular and intracellular hippocampal recordings to study learning-related synaptic and intrinsic plasticity. Rats received one session of trace fear conditioning, followed by a brief conditioned stimulus (CS) test the next day. To relate behavioral performance with measures of hippocampal CA1 physiology, brain slices were prepared within 1 h of the CS test. In trace-conditioned rats, both synaptic plasticity and intrinsic excitability were significantly correlated with behavior such that better learning corresponded with enhanced long-term potentiation (LTP; r = 0.64, P < 0.05) and a smaller postburst afterhyperpolarization (AHP; r = -0.62, P < 0.05). Such correlations were not observed in pseudoconditioned rats, whose physiological data were comparable to those of poor learners and naive and chamber-exposed control rats. In addition, acquisition of trace fear conditioning did not enhance basal synaptic responses. Thus these data suggest that within the hippocampus both synaptic and intrinsic mechanisms are involved in the acquisition of trace fear conditioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Synapses / physiology*