Learning-related changes in strength in selected hippocampal synapses have been described recently. However, information is scarce regarding the spatial-temporal sequence of changes in synaptic weights taking place during the acquisition of a classical conditioning task and the contribution of both context (environmental details) and cues (conditioned and unconditioned stimuli: CS, US) to those activity-dependent changes. We recorded in rabbits the monosynaptic field excitatory postsynaptic potentials (fEPSPs) evoked at 6 different hippocampal synapses during the acquisition and extinction of a classical eyeblink conditioning using trace or delay paradigms, as well as during pseudoconditioning and in the absence of CS and US presentations (context). Context and pseudoconditioning training evoked early, lasting changes in synaptic strength in perforant pathway synapses in dentate gyrus (PP-DG), and hippocampal CA3 (PP-CA3) and CA1 (PP-CA1) areas. Pseudoconditioning also evoked early, nonlasting changes in strength within the intrinsic hippocampal circuit (CA3-CA1 and CA3-cCA1 synapses). In contrast, during both trace and delay training sessions, synaptic changes in strength were mostly noticed within the intrinsic hippocampal circuit (DG-CA3, CA3-CA1, CA3-cCA1). The response of hippocampal synapses to afferent impulses seems to be modulated by both context and cues during associative learning in behaving rabbits.
Keywords: associative learning; behaving rabbits; changes in synaptic strength; hippocamapal synapses; neuronal plasticity.
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