A growing body of evidence suggests that the hypothalamic neuropeptide oxytocin (OT), aside from its central role in the regulation of social behavior, reduces fear and anxiety. The functional and opposing interactions of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the amygdala in regulation of fear provide a unique experimental setting to examine the effects of OT on fear and extinction. Recent evidence suggests that in the adult animal OT can play a dual role in the regulation of fear leading to contrasting effects on fear depending on the manipulated brain region and the time of manipulations. The OT system is one of the systems that undergoes major changes throughout development, however, its role in regulating fear in young animals has not been widely explored. We recently showed that the mechanisms of extinction, and specifically engagement of the mPFC in extinction, are not identical in adult and juvenile animals. Thus, the purpose of this study was to elucidate the effects of OT on fear and extinction in juvenile animals. To that end, we determine extinction, by measuring freezing at different time points, following microinjection of the OT agonist, TGOT, into the mPFC, the basolateral and the central nuclei of the amygdala (BLA and CeA, respectively). The results show that whereas TGOT microinjections into the IL-mPFC did not affect extinction, microinjections into the amygdala were mainly associated with enhanced fear and impaired extinction. These results further emphasize the differences between adult and juvenile brains.
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ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience