Acute administration of nicotine into the higher order auditory Te2 cortex specifically decreases the fear-related charge of remote emotional memories.

PMID 26319210


Nicotine elicits several behavioural effects on mood as well as on stress and anxiety processes. Recently, it was found that the higher order components of the sensory cortex, such as the secondary auditory cortex Te2, are essential for the long-term storage of remote fear memories. Therefore, in the present study, we examined the effects of acute nicotine injection into the higher order auditory cortex Te2, on the remote emotional memories of either threat or incentive experiences in rats. We found that intra-Te2 nicotine injection decreased the fear-evoked responses to a tone previously paired with footshock. This effect was cue- and dose-specific and was not due to any interference with auditory stimuli processing, innate anxiety and fear processes, or with motor responses. Nicotine acts acutely in the presence of threat stimuli but it did not determine the permanent degradation of the fear-memory trace, since memories tested one week after nicotine injection were unaffected. Remarkably, nicotine did not affect the memory of a similar tone that was paired to incentive stimuli. We conclude from our results that nicotine, when acting acutely in the auditory cortex, relieves the fear charge embedded by learned stimuli.