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Melatonin facilitates extinction, but not acquisition or expression, of conditional cued fear in rats

Fulian Huang1, Zehua Yang2, Xiaoyan Liu2 and Chang-Qi Li1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Central South University, Tongzipo Road 172, Changsha, Hunan 410013, P.R China

2 Department of Physiology, Yiyang Medical College, Yingbin Road 516, Yiyang, Hunan 413000, P.R China

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BMC Neuroscience 2014, 15:86  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-15-86

Published: 15 July 2014



Previous studies have shown that melatonin is involved in the processes that contribute to learning and memory. At present study, we tested the effects of exogenous melatonin (2.5 mg/kg) on the acquisition, expression and extinction of cued fear in rats.


Results showed that a single afternoon administration 30 min before conditioning has no effect on the acquisition of cued fear. Compared to rats injected with vehicle, rats injected with melatonin 30 min before extinction training presented a significant lower freezing during both extinction training and extinction test phases, however, freezing response did not differ for the initial four trials during extinction training. Melatonin injected immediately after extinction training was ineffective on extinction learning.


These results suggest that melatonin, at the dose applied in this study, facilitates the extinction of conditional cued fear without affecting its acquisition or expression, and melatonin facilitates cued fear extinction only when it is present during extinction training. These findings extend previous research on the melatonin effects on learning and memory and suggest that melatonin may serve as an agent for the treatment of anxiety disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Melatonin; Cued fear; Fear conditioning; Fear extinction; PTSD; Rats