Hippocampectomy disrupts auditory trace fear conditioning and contextual fear conditioning in the rat

Matthew D. McEchron, Hans Bouwmeester, Wilbur Tseng, Craig Weiss, John F. Disterhoft*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

318 Scopus citations


The hippocampus is believed to be an important structure for learning tasks that require temporal processing of information. The trace classical conditioning paradigm requires temporal processing because the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the unconditioned stimulus (US) are temporally separated by an empty trace interval. The present study sought to determine whether the hippocampus was necessary for rats to perform a classical trace fear conditioning task in which each of 10 trials consisted of an auditory tone CS (15-s duration) followed by an empty 30-s trace interval and then a fear-producing floor-shock US (0.5-s duration). Several weeks prior to training, animals were anesthetized and given aspiration lesions of the neocortex (NEO; n = 6), hippocampus and overlying neocortex (HIPP; n = 7), or no lesions at all (control; n = 6). Approximately 24 h after trace conditioning, NEO and control animals showed a significant decrease in movement to a CS-alone presentation that was indicative of a conditioned fear response. Animals in the HIPP group did not show conditioned fear responses to the CS alone, nor did a pseudoconditioning group (n = 7) that was trained with unpaired CSs and USs. Furthermore, all groups except the HIPP group showed conditioned fear responses to the original context in which they received shock USs. One week later, HIPP, NEO, and control animals received delay fear-conditioning trials with no trace interval separating the CS and US. Six of seven HIPP animals could perform the delay version, but none could perform the trace version. This result suggests that the trace fear task is a reliable and useful model for examining the neural mechanisms of hippocampally dependent learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)638-646
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998


  • Emotion
  • Hippocampus
  • Lesion
  • Pavlovian
  • Temporal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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