CA3 NMDA receptors are required for the rapid formation of a salient contextual representation


The acquisition of Pavlovian fear learning engages the hippocampus when the conditioned stimuli are multimodal or temporally isolated from the unconditioned stimuli. By subjecting CA3-NR1 KO mice to conditioning protocols that incorporate time-dependent components, we found that the loss of plasticity at recurrent CA3 synapses resulted in a deficits in contextual conditioning specifically when the exposure to the context was brief or when the unconditioned stimulus was signaled with a competing, predictive unimodal stimulus. Our results suggest CA3 contributes both speed and salience to contextual processing and support the theory of competition between multimodal and unimodal conditioned stimuli for associative learning.

Hippocampus, Volume 19, Issue 12, December 2009, Pages 1153-1158