Lattice-like structures known as perineuronal nets (PNNs) are key components of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Once fully crystallized by adulthood, they are largely stable throughout life. Contrary to previous reports that PNNs inhibit processes involving plasticity, here we report that the dynamic regulation of PNN expression in the adult auditory cortex is vital for fear learning and consolidation in response to pure tones. Specifically, after first confirming the necessity of auditory cortical activity for fear learning and consolidation, we observed that mRNA levels of key proteoglycan components of PNNs were enhanced 4 hr after fear conditioning but were no longer different from the control groups 24 hr later. A similar pattern of regulation was observed in numbers of cells surrounded by PNNs and area occupied by them in the auditory cortex. Finally, the removal of auditory cortex PNNs resulted in a deficit in fear learning and consolidation.
Keywords: Chondroitinase ABC; PTSD; auditory cortex; conditioning; consolidation; extracellular matrix; hearing; memory; perceptual learning; plasticity.
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