Influence of fear conditioning on elicited ponto-geniculo-occipital waves and rapid eye movement sleep.

L. D. Sanford, A. J. Silvestri, R. J. Ross, A. R. Morrison


The amygdala plays a central role in fear conditioning, a model of anticipatory anxiety. It has massive projections to brainstem regions involved in rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and ponto-geniculo-occipital (PGO) wave generation. PGO waves occur spontaneously in REM or in response to stimuli. Electrical stimulation of the central nucleus of the amygdala enhances spontaneous PGO wave activity during REM and the amplitude of both the acoustic startle response and the elicited PGO wave (PGOE), a neural marker of alerting. This study examined the effects of fear conditioning on REM and on PGOE. On conditioning days, the number of REM episodes, the average REM duration and the REM percentage were decreased while REM latency was increased. The presentation of auditory stimuli in the presence of a light conditioned stimulus produced PGOE of greater amplitudes. The results suggest that fear, most likely involving the amygdala, can influence REM and brainstem alerting mechanisms.

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