Different methods of fear reduction are supported by distinct cortical substrates

Elife. 2020 Jun 26;9:e55294. doi: 10.7554/eLife.55294.


Understanding how learned fear can be reduced is at the heart of treatments for anxiety disorders. Tremendous progress has been made in this regard through extinction training in which the aversive outcome is omitted. However, current progress almost entirely rests on this single paradigm, resulting in a very specialized knowledgebase at the behavioural and neural level of analysis. Here, we used a dual-paradigm approach to show that different methods that lead to reduction in learned fear in rats are dissociated in the cortex. We report that the infralimbic cortex has a very specific role in fear reduction that depends on the omission of aversive events but not on overexpectation. The orbitofrontal cortex, a structure generally overlooked in fear, is critical for downregulating fear when novel predictions about upcoming aversive events are generated, such as when fear is inflated or overexpected, but less so when an expected aversive event is omitted.

Keywords: extinction; fear; infralimbic; learning; neuroscience; orbitofrontal; rat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Extinction, Psychological*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rats / physiology*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley