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The cholinergic system has consistently been implicated in Pavlovian fear conditioning. Considerable work has been done to localize specific nicotinic receptor subtypes in the hippocampus and determine their functional importance; however, the specific function of many of these subtypes has yet to be determined. An alpha7 nicotinic antagonist methyllycaconitine (MLA) (35 microg), and a broad spectrum non-alpha7 nicotinic antagonist mecamylamine (35 microg) was injected directly into the dorsal hippocampus or overlying cortex either 15 min pre-, 1 min post-, or 6h post-fear conditioning. One week after conditioning, retention of contextual and cue (tone) conditioning were assessed. A significant impairment in retention of contextual fear was observed when mecamylamine was injected 15 min pre- and 1 min post-conditioning. No significant impairment was observed when mecamylamine was injected 6h post-conditioning. Likewise, a significant impairment in retention of contextual fear was observed when MLA was injected 1 min post-conditioning; however, in contrast, MLA did not show any significant impairments when injected 15 min pre-conditioning, but did show a significant impairment when injected 6h post-conditioning. There were no significant impairments observed when either drug was injected into overlying cortex. No significant impairments were observed in cue conditioning for either drug. In general, specific temporal dynamics involved in nicotinic receptor function were found relative to time of receptor dysfunction. The results indicate that the greatest deficits in long-term retention (1 week) of contextual fear are produced by central infusion of MLA minutes to hours post-conditioning or mecamylamine within minutes of conditioning.
Lesions of the dorsal hippocampus have been shown to disrupt both the acquisition and the consolidation of memories associated with contextual fear (fear of the place of conditioning), but do not affect fear conditioning to discrete cues (e.g., a tone). Blockade of central muscarinic cholinergic receptor activation results in selective acquisition deficits of contextual fear conditioning, but reportedly has little effect on consolidation. Here we show for the first time that direct infusion of the muscarinic cholinergic receptor antagonist, scopolamine, into the dorsal hippocampus produces a dose-dependent deficit in both acquisition and consolidation of contextual fear conditioning, while having no impact on simple tone conditioning.
Subregional analyses of the hippocampus have suggested a selective role for the CA1 subregion in intermediate/long-term spatial memory and consolidation, but not short-term acquisition or encoding processes. It remains unclear how the direct cortical projection to CA1 via the perforant path (pp) contributes to these CA1-dependent processes. It has been suggested that dopamine selectively modulates the pp projection to CA1 while having little to no effect on the Schaffer collateral (SC) projection to CA1. This series of behavioral and electrophysiological experiments takes advantage of this pharmacological dissociation to demonstrate that the direct pp inputs to CA1 are critical in CA1-dependent intermediate-term retention and retrieval function. Here we demonstrate that local infusion of the nonselective dopamine agonist, apomorphine (10, 15 microg), into the CA1 subregion of awake animals produces impairments in between-day retention and retrieval, sparing within-day encoding of a modified Hebb-Williams maze and contextual conditioning of fear. In contrast, apomorphine produces no deficits when infused into the CA3 subregion. To complement the behavioral analyses, electrophysiological data was collected. In anesthetized animals, local infusion of the same doses of apomorphine significantly modifies evoked responses in the distal dendrites of CA1 following angular bundle stimulation, but produces no significant effects in the more proximal dendritic layer following stimulation of the SC. These results support a modulatory role for dopamine in the EC-CA1, but not CA3-CA1 circuitry, and suggest the possibility of a more fundamental role for EC-CA1 synaptic transmission in terms of intermediate-term, but not short-term spatial memory.
Rats were implanted bilaterally with cannulae into the dorsal hippocampus and trained in a Pavlovian fear-conditioning paradigm. Four groups of rats were infused intra-cranially with 1-(5'-isoquinolinesulfonyl)-2-methylpiperazine (H7-dihydrochloride), a potent inhibitor of both protein kinase C (PKC) and cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), at different time intervals in order to examine their involvement in the acquisition and consolidation of contextual fear memory. We demonstrate a significant consolidation deficit of long-term contextual fear-conditioning memory that is maximal when PKA and PKC are inhibited at 90 min post-training. These results suggest the existence of a critical time window, during which these enzymes must be activated for the consolidation of long-term memories.