Project ITC Plastizität – Plastizität von Schaltkreisen interkalierter Zellen bei der Furchtkonditionierung

Basic data

Acronym:
ITC Plastizität
Title:
Plastizität von Schaltkreisen interkalierter Zellen bei der Furchtkonditionierung
Duration:
01/11/2015 to 31/10/2019
Abstract / short description:
Anxiety spectrum disorders result from abnormal regulation of neural networks that support fear learning. A key brain region is the amygdala, which is composed of several nuclei with unique inputs and outputs. To study fear learning in the laboratory, Pavlovian fear conditioning is the most widely used model, where a neutral conditioned stimulus (CS) is associated with an aversive unconditioned stimulus (US). Conditioned fear responses are acquired through activity-dependent plasticity at glutamatergic sensory synapses on principal neurons of the basolateral amygdala. While increasing evidence also indicates a critical role for modulation and plasticity of inhibitory neurons, specific functions and plasticity mechanisms of different types of amygdala GABAergic neurons are still poorly understood. Recently, clusters of GABAergic projection neurons, the intercalated cells (ITC) received particular attention as crucial players in extinction learning. ITCs are ideally positioned to integrate information from the somatosensory system and neuromodulators such as dopamine, which has a critical role in acquisition and expression of fear. Our recent findings show that dorsal ITCs are also activated by fear learning, are a site of convergence for glutamatergic CS- and US-related sensory inputs, and send efferents to several local (amygdala) and extra-amygdala targets. Our key hypothesis is that salient sensory stimuli directly drive ITC neuronal plasticity and activity, which in turn affects multiple target areas to control conditioned fear behavior.
Here, we propose an integrated approach to investigate fear learning-related synaptic plasticity in ITC networks, and to understand how ITC activity and outputs contribute to distinct acquired fear states in mice. First, we will elucidate functional and molecular mechanisms of sensory input plasticity onto dorsal ITCs following fear learning and memory retrieval using ex vivo electrophysiology and high-resolution imaging. Next, we will determine the role of physiologically released dopamine in modulating ITC plasticity by employing a specific optogenetic approach. Thirdly, for all recorded ITCs we will identify innervated brain regions and targeted cell types using anatomical techniques. As we hypothesize that subsets of dorsal ITCs with specific outputs are activated during distinct fear states, we will examine activation of ITCs with defined target regions upon high and low fear states by combining behavioral analysis with retrograde tracing and activity mapping. Lastly, to establish a causal link between ITC activity and distinct fear states, we will use a pharmacogenetic approach to attenuate ITC activity specifically during fear learning, memory retrieval, and extinction. Our data will provide important new insights into the layout, plasticity mechanisms, and role of these specialized GABAergic ITC microcircuits in the amygdala in distinct acquired fear states.
Keywords:
amygdala intercalated cells
fear learning
GABAergic system
synaptic plasticity
dopaminergic modulation
ionotropic glutamate receptors

Involved staff

Managers

University Department of Neurology
Hospitals and clinical institutes, Faculty of Medicine
Werner Reichardt Center for Integrative Neuroscience (CIN)
Centers

Contact persons

University Department of Neurology
Hospitals and clinical institutes, Faculty of Medicine
Werner Reichardt Center for Integrative Neuroscience (CIN)
Centers

Local organizational units

Department of Neurology with Focus on Neurodegenerative Disorders
University Department of Neurology
Hospitals and clinical institutes, Faculty of Medicine

Funders

Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
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