The mechanisms that contribute to the extinction of previously acquired memories are not well understood. These processes, often referred to as inhibitory learning, are thought to be parallel learning mechanisms that require a reacquisition of new information and suppression of previously acquired experiences in order to adapt to novel situations. Using newly generated metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) knock-out mice, we investigated the role of mGluR5 in the acquisition and reversal of an associative conditioned task and a spatial reference task. We found that acquisition of fear conditioning is partially impaired in mice lacking mGluR5. More markedly, we found that extinction of both contextual and auditory fear was completely abolished in mGluR5 knock-out mice. In the Morris Water Maze test (MWM), mGluR5 knock-out mice exhibited mild deficits in the rate of acquisition of the regular water maze task, but again had significant deficits in the reversal task, despite overall spatial memory being intact. Together, these results demonstrate that mGluR5 is critical to the function of neural circuits that are required for inhibitory learning mechanisms, and suggest that targeting metabotropic receptors may be useful in treating psychiatric disorders in which aversive memories are inappropriately retained.
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