Single neurons in CA1 hippocampus encode trace interval duration during trace heart rate (fear) conditioning in rabbit

Matthew D. McEchron*, Wilbur Tseng, John F. Disterhoft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


This study sought to determine whether CA1 hippocampal neurons encode the duration of the trace interval during trace fear conditioning. Single neurons were recorded extracellularly in the CA1 of rabbits during and after a single trace fear classical conditioning session. Trace fear conditioning trials consisted of an auditory conditioned stimulus (CS; 3 sec) and a fear-producing shock unconditioned stimulus (US; 0.5 sec) separated by a silent trace interval. One group of rabbits was trained using a 10 sec trace interval (n = 5), and another group was trained using a 20 sec trace interval (n = 4). These groups were compared with pseudoconditioning control rabbits (n = 5 and n = 4, respectively) that received unpaired CSs and USs. One day after trace and pseudo fear conditioning rabbits received a CS-alone retention session in which no USs were presented. The trace conditioned groups showed larger bradycardiac-fear responses on CS-alone trials compared with the pseudoconditioning groups. A significant percentage of CA1 neurons from the 10 and 20 sec trace groups (24 and 28%, respectively) showed maximal firing on CS-alone retention trials timed to 10 sec (± 1.5 sec) and 20 sec (±2.0 sec) after CS offset, respectively. These latencies were similar to the duration of the trace interval used on previous CS-trace-US trials. Timed CA1 firing was not seen in pseudoconditioning control animals, suggesting that a subset of CA1 neurons encoded the trace interval duration. The percentage of neurons encoding trace duration was largest when rabbits exhibited significant fear responses to the CS, suggesting that trace encoding was related to the strength of the CS and US association.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1535-1547
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2003


  • CA1
  • Conditioning
  • Heart rate
  • Hippocampus
  • Learning
  • Single neuron
  • Temporal
  • Trace

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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