Poster B24, Sunday, March 26, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
The role of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in the generalization of conditioned fear
Kelsey Spalding1; 1University of Iowa
Fear generalization, the generalization of fear to innocuous stimuli, is a characteristic component of pathological anxiety. Neural models of fear generalization suggest the involvement of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). However, conflicting findings complicate our understanding of the role of the mPFC in pathological anxiety. To address some of the important unanswered questions in this area, a detailed review and synthesis of results from human and non-human animal investigations of conditioned fear generalization was conducted. Empirical articles were identified through March 2016, and selected if they used fear conditioning, measured fear generalization, and included a measure of activity in the mPFC or manipulation of mPFC functioning (23 articles included). Results indicate the role of the mPFC varies based on the region of the mPFC involved, the type of conditioning used, and the timing of the generalization test. In cued fear conditioning, the ventral mPFC plays an important role in the inhibition of fear generalization, whereas dorsal mPFC is important for the activation of generalized fear. In contextual fear conditioning, the mPFC appears to play a critical role in support of remote fear memories as they become hippocampally-independent, leading to loss of specificity and subsequent generalization. However, the mPFC appears to play a role in reducing generalization in recent fear memories. Results indicate that some anxiety disorders are associated with increased fear generalization and ventral mPFC hypoactivation. A better understanding of the role of the mPFC in fear generalization could lead to sharpened and more effective pharmacological interventions for pathological anxiety.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions