Chronic inhibition of GABA synthesis in the infralimbic cortex facilitates conditioned safety memory and reduces contextual fear

Transl Psychiatry. 2020 Apr 24;10(1):120. doi: 10.1038/s41398-020-0788-8.


Accurate discrimination between danger and safety cues is essential for survival. Recent findings in humans indicate that patients suffering from anxiety disorders cannot reliably use safety cues in order to inhibit fear responses. However, the neuroanatomical pathways of conditioned safety are still unclear. Aim of the present study was to investigate whether chronic inhibition of GABA synthesis in the infralimbic (IL) cortex, a critical region for fear inhibition, would lead to enhanced conditioned safety memory. Male Sprague Dawley rats were equipped with osmotic mini-pumps attached to an infusion cannula aimed at the IL. Mini-pumps were either filled with the glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) inhibitor L-allylglycine (L-AG) or the inactive enantiomer D-allylglycine (D-AG). Previous studies demonstrated that chronic infusions of L-AG lead to lower GABA levels and overall enhanced neural activity. The effect of IL disinhibition on conditioned safety was investigated utilizing the acoustic startle response. Chronic disinhibition of the IL facilitated conditioned safety memory, along with reduced contextual fear and lower corticosterone levels. The present findings suggest that the IL is a key brain region for conditioned safety memory. Because anxiety disorder patients are often not capable to use safety cues to inhibit unnecessary fear responses, the present findings are of clinical relevance and could potentially contribute to therapy optimization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extinction, Psychological
  • Fear*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reflex, Startle*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid