Spoormaker et al (2014): vmPFC and REM associated with fear

PDF: Spoormaker_EBR_xx_xx-xx_2014_vmPFC-REM-fear

Ventromedial prefrontal cortex activity and rapid eye movement
sleep are associated with subsequent fear expression in human
subjects

Abstract In humans, activity patterns in the ventromedial
prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) have been found to be predictive
of subsequent fear memory consolidation. Pioneering work
in rodents has further shown that vmPFC–amygdala theta
synchronization is correlated with fear memory consolidation.
We aimed to evaluate whether vmPFC activity during
fear conditioning is (1) correlated with fear expression the
subsequent day and whether (2) this relationship is mediated
by rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. We analyzed data
from 17 young healthy subjects undergoing a fear conditioning
task, followed by a fear extinction task 24 h later,
both recorded with simultaneous skin conductance response
(SCR) and functional magnetic resonance imaging measurements,
with a polysomnographically recorded night sleep in
between. Our results showed a correlation between vmPFC
activity during fear conditioning and subsequent REM sleep
amount, as well as between REM sleep amount and SCR to
the conditioned stimulus 24 h later. Moreover, we observed
a significant correlation between vmPFC activity during fear
conditioning and SCR responses during extinction, which
was no longer significant after controlling for REM sleep
amount. vmPFC activity during fear conditioning was further
correlated with sleep latency. Interestingly, hippocampus
activity during fear conditioning was correlated with
stage 2 and stage 4 sleep amount. Our results provide preliminary
evidence that the relationship between REM sleep
and fear conditioning and extinction observed in rodents
can be modeled in healthy human subjects, highlighting an
interrelated set of potentially relevant trait markers.

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About Tore Nielsen

Researcher at University of Montreal and Director of Dream & Nightmare Laboratory
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