The brain forms robust associations between odors and emotionally salient memories, making odors especially effective at triggering fearful or traumatic memories. Using Pavlovian olfactory fear conditioning (OFC), a variant of the traditional tone-shock paradigm, this study explored the changes involved in its processing. We assessed the expression of neuronal plasticity markers phosphorylated cyclic adenosine monophosphate response element binding protein (pCREB) and phosphorylated mitogen-activated protein kinase (pMAPK) 24 h and 14 days following OFC, in newborn neurons (EdU+) and in brain regions associated with olfactory memory processing; the olfactory bulb, piriform cortex, amygdale, and hippocampus. Here, we show that all proliferating neurons in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus and glomerular layer of the olfactory bulb were colocalized with pCREB at 24 h and 14 days post-conditioning, and the number of proliferating neurons at both time points were statistically similar. This suggests the occurrence of long-term potentiation within the neurons of this pathway. Finally, OFC significantly increased the density of pCREB- and pMAPK-positive immunoreactive neurons in the medial and cortical subnuclei of the amygdala and the posterior piriform cortex, suggesting their key involvement in its processing. Together, our investigation identifies changes in neuroplasticity within critical neural circuits responsible for olfactory fear memory.

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