078 | Understanding Fear Generalization through Pavlovian Fear Conditioning in mice

Cognition, Behavior, and Memory

Author: Sol Bencardino | Email: sbencardino@gmail.com

Sol Bencardino , Joaquín Piriz

1° Instituto de Fisiología, Biología Molecular y Neurociencias (IFIByNE), UBA-CONICET

Fear is characterized by the perception of risk, serving as a valuable adaptive mechanism for survival. However, when it becomes dysregulated, it can lead to the development of anxiety disorders, phobias, etc. where individuals exhibit an exaggerated and generalized fear response that goes beyond the initial traumatic event. Understanding the mechanisms that underlie fear generalization holds substantial implications for therapeutic interventions. In order to study fear generalization in rodents, Pavlovian Fear Conditioning (FC) is commonly employed. This involves associating a conditioned stimulus (CS), like a tone, with an aversive unconditioned stimulus (US), typically an electric foot-shock. To assess fear generalization, a safe context is introduced alongside the aversive conditioning context to evaluate whether mice exhibit fear responses towards a context which lacks an aversive component. Also, a distinct tone (CS-) is included to further investigate cued fear generalization. By presenting a different conditioned stimulus that is not paired with the aversive US, we can determine whether fear extends to stimuli sharing similarities with the CS but lacking the aversive associations. Our results show no evidence of contextual fear generalization, suggesting successful discrimination between the conditioning context and the safe context. However, the mice exhibited a pronounced fear response to the CS-, displaying increased freezing behavior compared to baseline levels.