Theses Doctoral

Dissecting the role of the hippocampal-prefrontal circuit in anxiety

Padilla Coreano, Nancy

The ventral hippocampus (vHPC), medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and basolateral amygdala (BLA) are each required for the expression of anxiety-like behavior. Yet the role of each individual element of the circuit is unclear. The projection from the vHPC to the mPFC has been implicated in anxiety-related neural synchrony and spatial representations of aversion. The role of this projection was examined using multi-site neural recordings combined with optogenetic terminal inhibition.
Inhibition of vHPC input to the mPFC disrupted anxiety and mPFC representations of aversion, and reduced theta synchrony in a pathway-, frequency- and task-specific manner. Moreover, bilateral, but not unilateral, inhibition altered physiological correlates of anxiety in the BLA, mimicking a safety-like state. These results reveal a specific role for the vHPC-mPFC projection in anxiety-related behavior and the spatial representation of aversive information within the mPFC. Moreover, these data suggested that theta-frequency input from the vHPC plays a causal role in anxiety-like behavior.
Next, it was investigated whether optogenetic stimulation of the vHPC-mPFC at a theta frequency was sufficient to increase anxiety. Stimulating the vHPC input to the mPFC with a sinusoidal light pattern at 8 Hz significantly increased anxiety behavior. The anxiogenic effect of vHPC terminal stimulation was frequency- (8 Hz but not 20 Hz) and pattern- (sinusoids but not pulses) specific. To understand how pulses and sinusoidal light modulate mPFC neurons differentially, mPFC pyramidal neurons were recorded both in vitro and in vivo while stimulating vHPC terminals with the same sinusoidal or pulsatile patterns. In vitro, sinusoidal stimulation increased the rate of spontaneous EPSCs, while pulses evoked strong, stimulus-locked EPSCs. In vivo, sinusoidal stimulation of vHPC terminals increased the phase-locking of mPFC single unit spiking to the optical stimulation pattern without changing overall firing rates. Together, these results suggest that sinusoidal stimulation at 8 Hz enhances theta-frequency activity in mPFC neurons as well as anxiety-related behavior. Moreover, they suggest that theta-frequency components of neural activity play a privileged role in vHPC-mPFC communication and hippocampal-dependent forms of anxiety.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Neurobiology and Behavior
Thesis Advisors
Gordon, Joshua A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 14, 2016