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Dopamine D1-like receptors in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex regulate contextual fear conditioning

Stubbendorff, Christine; Hale, Ed; Cassaday, Helen J; Bast, Tobias; Stevenson, Carl W

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Christine Stubbendorff

Ed Hale

Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience

Associate Professor



Dopamine D1 receptor (D1R) signalling is involved in contextual fear conditioning. The D1R antagonist SCH23390 impairs the acquisition of contextual fear when administered systemically or infused locally into the dorsal hippocampus or basolateral amygdala.


We determined if state dependency may account for the impairment in contextual fear conditioning caused by systemic SCH23390 administration. We also examined if the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), nucleus accumbens (NAc), and ventral hippocampus (VH) are involved in mediating the effect of systemic SCH23390 treatment on contextual fear conditioning.


In experiment 1, SCH23390 (0.1 mg/kg) or vehicle was given before contextual fear conditioning and/or retrieval. In experiment 2, SCH23390 (2.5 μg/0.5 uL) or vehicle was infused locally into dmPFC, NAc, or VH before contextual fear conditioning, and retrieval was tested drug-free. Freezing was quantified as a measure of contextual fear.


In experiment 1, SCH23390 given before conditioning or before both conditioning and retrieval decreased freezing at retrieval, whereas SCH23390 given only before retrieval had no effect. In experiment 2, SCH23390 infused into dmPFC before conditioning decreased freezing at retrieval, while infusion of SCH23390 into NAc or VH had no effect.


The results of experiment 1 confirm those of previous studies indicating that D1Rs are required for the acquisition but not retrieval of contextual fear and rule out state dependency as an explanation for these findings. Moreover, the results of experiment 2 provide evidence that dmPFC is also part of the neural circuitry through which D1R signalling regulates contextual fear conditioning.


Stubbendorff, C., Hale, E., Cassaday, H. J., Bast, T., & Stevenson, C. W. (2019). Dopamine D1-like receptors in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex regulate contextual fear conditioning. Psychopharmacology, 236(6), 1771-1782.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 19, 2018
Online Publication Date Jan 17, 2019
Publication Date Jan 17, 2019
Deposit Date Jan 16, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jan 23, 2019
Journal Psychopharmacology
Print ISSN 0033-3158
Electronic ISSN 1432-2072
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 236
Issue 6
Pages 1771-1782
Keywords anterior cingulate cortex; contextual fear; dopamine; D1 receptor; nucleus accumbens; open field; prefrontal cortex; SCH23390; ventral hippocampus
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Additional Information Received: 17 October 2018; Accepted: 21 December 2018; First Online: 17 January 2019; : The principles of laboratory animal care were followed and all experimental procedures were performed with institutional ethical approval and under the UK Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (Home Office Project Licence 30/3230).; : The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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