We studied the possible involvement of corticosteroids in the establishment and long-term expression of contextual fear conditioning and questioned whether a corticosteroid action might be dependent upon stimulus intensity at training. Experiments included: (i) the intracerebroventricular administration of specific antagonists for the two types of intracellular corticosteroid receptors to rats trained at either 1 mA or 0.4 mA shock intensity at conditioning; and (ii) the administration of corticosterone after conditioning rats to 0.2 mA shocks. The results showed that the administration of a type II glucocorticoid, but not a type I mineralocorticoid, receptor antagonist before conditioning rats to the intermediate shock condition attenuated long-term expression of contextual fear conditioning. However, treatment with the antagonists before conditioning to the high shock intensity failed to influence the extent of fear conditioning. In addition, an intraperitoneal corticosterone injection, given immediately after training rats at the low shock intensity, enhanced long-term expression of the fear response. The results support the view that post-training levels of circulating corticosterone, through an interaction with central type II glucocorticoid receptors, modulate the strength to which memory for contextual fear conditioning is established and maintained.
Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.