The conditioned fear learning and memory occurs when a neutral conditioned stimulus (CS) is paired with an aversive unconditioned stimulus (US). This process is critically dependent on the amygdala and inevitably involves blood pressure (BP) alterations. We hypothesized that BP variations could instantaneously reveal individual steps during conditioned fear learning and memory. An implanted telemetric probe was used to monitor the BP real-time in rats during training and testing sessions of the fear-potentiated startle. Our results showed that (i) the conditioned fear learning during the training sessions was reflected by light (CS)-induced rapid BP elevations and by electric shock (US)-evoked sympathetic tone elevations; (ii) these two BP-related parameters were not only negatively correlated with each other but also coupled to each other in the training session trials; (iii) both parameters closely predicted the performance of fear-potentiated startle on the next day; and (iv) although local blocking of one of the two fear-conditioned pathways in the training session partially inhibited fear learning, the fear memory retrieval still used both pathways. Altogether, real-time blood pressure variations faithfully revealed the critical steps involved in conditioned fear learning and memory, and our results supported a coupling between the cued learning and the post-shock calmness.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)