Memory for contextual fear conditioning relies upon the retrosplenial cortex (RSC) regardless of how long ago conditioning occurred, whereas areas connected to the RSC, such as the dorsal hippocampus (DH) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) appear to play time-limited roles. To better understand whether these brain regions functionally interact during memory processing and how the passage of time affects these interactions, we simultaneously recorded local field potentials (LFPs) from these three regions as well as anterior dorsal thalamus (ADT), which provides one of the strongest inputs to RSC, and measured coherence of oscillatory activity within the theta (4-12Hz) and gamma (30-80Hz) frequency bands. We identified changes of theta coherence related to encoding, retrieval, and extinction of context fear, whereas changes in gamma coherence were restricted to fear extinction. Specifically, exposure to a novel context and retrieval of recently acquired fear conditioning memory were associated with increased theta coherence between RSC and all three other structures. In contrast, RSC-DH and RSC-ADT theta coherence were decreased in mice that successfully retrieved, relative to mice that failed to retrieve, remote memory. Greater RSC-ADT theta and gamma coherence were observed during recent, compared to remote, extinction of freezing responses. Thus, the degree of coherence between RSC and connected brain areas may predict and contribute to context memory retrieval and retrieval-related phenomena such as fear extinction. Importantly, although theta coherence in this circuit increases during memory encoding and retrieval of recent memory, failure to decrease RSC-DH theta coherence might be linked to retrieval deficit in the long term, and possibly contribute to aberrant memory processing characteristic of neuropsychiatric disorders.
Keywords: Coherence; Extinction; Fear; Local field potential; Retrieval; Retrosplenial cortex.
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