Role of corticosterone in trace and delay conditioned fear-potentiated startle in rats

Michael A. Burman, Kathryn L. Hamilton, Jonathan C Gewirtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Emotional events often lead to particularly strong memory formation. Corticosterone, the final product of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis activation, has been suggested to play a critical role in this effect. Although a great deal of work has implicated the amygdala as a necessary structure for the effects of corticosterone, other studies have suggested a critical role for the hippocampus in determining the involvement of corticosterone. The current experiments examined this question by disrupting corticosterone synthesis with administration of metyrapone (25 or 100 mg/kg) prior to training in either dorsal hippocampus-independent delay fear conditioning or dorsal hippocampus-dependent trace fear conditioning. Metyrapone administration 2 hrs prior to training significantly attenuated corticosterone secretion during training, but these effects were transient as corticosterone levels were similar to control subjects following the test session. As hypothesized, only trace fear conditioning was impaired. This suggests that only fear conditioning tasks that are dependent on the dorsal hippocampus require HPA-axis activation in order to be learned.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-299
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Classical conditioning
  • Fear-potentiated startle
  • Glucocorticoid
  • Hippocampus
  • Memory formation


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