We are nearing three decades of research on the neural circuits of Pavlovian fear conditioning. The advent of new techniques such as genetic and optogenetic manipulations have greatly advanced our understanding of these circuits and their potential applicability to anxiety disorders such as PTSD and OCD. Under natural conditions, however, animals (and humans) make decisions to avoid potential threats, which compete with goal-directed behaviors. Research on active avoidance dates back to the 1960’s, but this research is experiencing a resurgence, building upon advances in Pavlovian fear conditioning. In rats, the key areas for avoidance appear to be the medial prefrontal cortex, ventral striatum, and amygdala, as evidenced by recording, immunocytochemical, and optogenetic findings. Despite its decision-based complexity, active avoidance is amenable to the approaches of modern neuroscience.
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