The pivotal role of the periaqueductal grey (PAG) in fear learning is reinforced by the identification of neurons in male rat ventrolateral PAG (vlPAG) that encode fear memory through signalling the onset and offset of an auditory-conditioned stimulus during presentation of the unreinforced conditioned tone (CS+) during retrieval. Some units only display CS+ onset or offset responses, and the two signals differ in extinction sensitivity, suggesting that they are independent of each other. In addition, understanding cerebellar contributions to survival circuits is advanced by the discovery that (i) reversible inactivation of the medial cerebellar nucleus (MCN) during fear consolidation leads in subsequent retrieval to (a) disruption of the temporal precision of vlPAG offset, but not onset responses to CS+, and (b) an increase in duration of freezing behaviour. And (ii) chemogenetic manipulation of the MCN-vlPAG projection during fear acquisition (a) reduces the occurrence of fear-related ultrasonic vocalisations, and (b) during subsequent retrieval, slows the extinction rate of fear-related freezing. These findings show that the cerebellum is part of the survival network that regulates fear memory processes at multiple timescales and in multiple ways, raising the possibility that dysfunctional interactions in the cerebellar-survival network may underlie fear-related disorders and comorbidities.
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© 2022, Lawrenson et al.