Review

The contextual brain: implications for fear conditioning, extinction and psychopathology

  • Nature Reviews Neuroscience volume 14, pages 417428 (2013)
  • doi:10.1038/nrn3492
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Abstract

Contexts surround and imbue meaning to events; they are essential for recollecting the past, interpreting the present and anticipating the future. Indeed, the brain's capacity to contextualize information permits enormous cognitive and behavioural flexibility. Studies of Pavlovian fear conditioning and extinction in rodents and humans suggest that a neural circuit including the hippocampus, amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex is involved in the learning and memory processes that enable context-dependent behaviour. Dysfunction in this network may be involved in several forms of psychopathology, including post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and substance abuse disorders.

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Acknowledgements

Work from the authors' laboratories described in this paper is supported by grants from the US National Institutes of Health to S.M. (R01MH065961), K.L.P. (R01MH086517 and R01MH071698) and I.L. (R24MH075999).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychology and Institute for Neuroscience, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843–3474, USA.

    • Stephen Maren
  2. Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago and Mental Health Service Line, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois 60608, USA.

    • K. Luan Phan
  3. VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and Departments of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.

    • Israel Liberzon

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stephen Maren.