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    Fear generalization is a conserved survival mechanism that can become maladaptive in the face of traumatic situations, a feature central to certain anxiety disorders including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the neural circuitry and molecular mechanisms underlying fear generalization remain unclear. Recent studies have shown that prophylactic treatment with (R,S)-ketamine confers protective effects in stress-induced depressive behaviors and enhances contextual fear discrimination, but the extent to which these effects extend to fear generalization after auditory fear conditioning remains unclear. Here, we build on this work by using a behavioral model of fear generalization in mice involving foot shocks with differential intensity levels during auditory fear conditioning. We find that prophylactic (R,S)-ketamine treatment exerts protective effects that results in enhanced fear discrimination in wild type mice. As the growth factor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), has been shown to mediate the rapid antidepressant actions of (R,S)-ketamine, we used a loss-of-function BDNF mouse line (BDNF Val66Met) to determine whether BDNF is involved in (R,S)-ketamine's prophylactic effects on fear generalization. We found that BDNF Val66Met mice were resistant to the protective effects of prophylactic (R,S)-ketamine administration on fear generalization and extinction. We then used fiber photometry to parse out underlying neural activity and found that in the ventral hippocampus there were significant fear generalization-dependent patterns of activity for wild type and BDNF Val66Met mice that were altered by prophylactic (R,S)-ketamine treatment. Overall, these findings indicate a role for the ventral hippocampus and BDNF signaling in modulating the mitigating effects of prophylactic (R,S)-ketamine treatment on generalized fear. © 2022. The Author(s).


    James D Ryan, Nathaniel Tse, Chienchun Huang, Ruirong Yang, Francis S Lee. The role of BDNF in mediating the prophylactic effects of (R,S)-ketamine on fear generalization and extinction. Translational psychiatry. 2022 Aug 25;12(1):346

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    PMID: 36008382

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