We examined the effect of glucocorticoid agonists on the extinction of conditioned fear in rats by using fear-potentiated startle. Systemic injection of glucocorticoid receptor agonists dexamethasone (DEX) (0.1, 0.5, and 1.0 mg/kg) and intra-amygdala infusion of RU28362 (0.5, 1.0, and 3.0 ng/side) prior to extinction training facilitated extinction of conditioned fear in a dose-dependent manner. Extinction of conditioned fear and circulating corticosterone levels were attenuated by administration of corticosteroid synthesis inhibitor metyrapone (25 mg/kg s.c.) 90 min before extinction training. The facilitation effect of DEX was dependent on repeated presentation of the conditioned stimulus rather than exposure to the experimental context, indicating this effect did not result from impaired expression of conditioned fear or accelerated forgetting. Intra-amygdaloid administration of the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist mifepristone (0.1, 0.2, and 0.5 ng/side, bilaterally) blocked extinction of conditioned fear and the facilitation effect of DEX in a dose-dependent manner. Mifepristone (2 ng/side) did not affect extinction but blocked the facilitating effect of DEX. Systemic administration of DEX after extinction training also facilitated extinction, suggesting that DEX may influence the memory consodilation phase of extinction. The Dose of dexamethsone or metyrapone used here did not influence fear-potentiated startle when administered before testing. Thus, it is unlikely that these drugs influenced extinction by increasing or disrupting CS processing. All results suggested that amygdaloid glucocorticoid receptors were involved in the extinction of conditioned fear.
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