Trace fear conditioning, in which a brief empty "trace interval" occurs between presentation of the CS and UCS, differs from standard delay conditioning in that contributions from both the hippocampus and prelimbic medial prefrontal cortex (PL mPFC) are required to form a normal long term memory. Little is currently known about how the PL interacts with various temporal lobe structures to support learning across this temporal gap between stimuli. We temporarily inactivated PL along with either ventral hippocampus or amygdala in a disconnection design to determine if these structures functionally interact to acquire trace fear conditioning. Disconnection (contralateral injections) of the PL with either the ventral hippocampus or amygdala impaired trace fear conditioning; however, ipsilateral control rats were also impaired. Follow-up experiments examined the effects of unilateral inactivation of the PL, ventral hippocampus, or amygdala during conditioning. The results of this study demonstrate that unilateral inactivation of the ventral hippocampus or amygdala impairs memory, while bilateral inactivation of the PL is required to produce a deficit. Memory deficits after unilateral inactivation of the ventral hippocampus or amygdala prevent us from determining whether the mPFC functionally interacts with the medial temporal lobe using a disconnection approach. Nonetheless, our findings suggest that the trace fear network is more integrated than previously thought.
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