gregory_quirkDr. Gregory J. Quirk.

Adjunct Professor (primary appointment as Professor at Dept. of Psychiatry) RCM A-231
787-999-3057, 787-758-2525, x2720, 2420, 2421

Interests: Prefrontal amygdala, fear conditioning, cognitive neuroscience.

The labs mission is to:

  • increase understanding of how the brain overcomes fear;
  • train effective scientific thinkers who value communication and collaboration; and
  • increase neuroscience practice in historically underrepresented countries.

Our lab studies the mechanisms of emotional regulation using extinction of conditioned fear.  Much of what is known about extinction comes from animal models using Pavlovian fear conditioning.  We found that a subregion of the prefrontal cortex, the infralimbic cortex (IL), is necessary for extinction (fear inhibition).  Moreover, we found that another mPFC subregion, the prelimbic cortex (PL), is necessary for fear expression.  We suggest that IL inhibits fear by inhibiting amygdala output, whereas PL drives fear by increasing amygdala output.  In addition to our rat studies, we are now studying fear in humans, with the goal of developing new treatments for anxiety disorders.


Selected Publications:

  • Rosas-Vidal LE*, Lozada-Miranda V, Cantres-Rosario Y, Vega-Medina A, Melendez L, Quirk GJ (2018) Alteration of BDNF in the medial prefrontal cortex and the ventral hippocampus impairs extinction of avoidance. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018 Dec;43(13):2636-2644. doi: 10.1038/s41386-018-0176-8. PMID: 30127343
  • Martínez-Rivera FJ*, Bravo-Rivera C*, Velázquez-Díaz CD, Montesinos-Cartagena M, Quirk GJ (2018) Prefrontal circuits signaling active avoidance retrieval and extinction. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2018 Sep 27. doi: 10.1007/s00213-018-5012-7. PMID: 30259076
  • Rodríguez-Romaguera J, Do Monte FH, Quirk GJ. (2012) Deep brain stimulation of the ventral striatum enhances extinction of conditioned fear. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109(22):8764-8769.

  • Linnman C, Zeidan MA, Furtak SC, Pitman RK, Quirk GJ, Milad MR. (2012) Resting amygdala and medial prefrontal metabolism predicts functional activation of the fear extinction circuit. Am J Psychiatry 169(4):415-423.
  • Milad MR, Quirk GJ. (2012) Fear extinction as a model for translational neuroscience: ten years of progress. Annu Rev Psychol. 63:129-151.
  • Padilla-Coreano N, Do-Monte FH, Quirk GJ. (2012) A time-dependent role of midline thalamic nuclei in the retrieval of fear memory. Neuropharmacology 62(1):457-463.
  • Sierra-Mercado D, Padilla-Coreano N, Quirk GJ. (2011) Dissociable roles of prelimbic and infralimbic cortices, ventral hippocampus, and basolateral amygdala in the expresion and exticntion of conditioned fear. Neuropsychopharmacology 36(2):529-538.
  • Fontanez-Nuin DE, Santini E, Quirk GJ, Porter JT. (2011) Memory for fear extinction requires mGluR5-mediated activation of infralimbic neurons. Cereb Cortex 21(3):727-735.
  • Quirk GJ, Paré D, Richardson R, Herry C, Monfils MH, Schiller D, Vicentic A. (2010) Erasing fear memories with extinction training. J Neurosci 30(45):14993-14997.
  • Mueller D, Bravo-Rivera C, Quirk GJ. (2010) Infralimbic D2 receptors are necessary for fear extinction and extinction-related tone responses. Biol Psychiatry 68(11):1055-1060.
  • Peters J, Dieppa-Perea LM, Meléndez LM, Quirk GJ (2010) Induction of fear extinction with hippocampal-infralimbic BDNF. Science 328(5983):1288-1290.
  • Sotres-Bayon F, Quirk GJ. (2010) Prefrontal control of fear: more than just extinction. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 20(2):231-235.
  • Quirk GJ, Milad MR. (2010) Neuroscience: Editing out fear. Nature. 463(7277):36-37.
  • Holmes A, Quirk GJ. (2010) Pharmacological facilitation of fear extinction and the search for adjunct treatments for anxiety disorders – the case of yohimbine. Trends Pharmacol Sci 31(1):2-7.
  • Burgos-Robles A, Vidal-González I, Quirk GJ. (2009) Sustained conditioned responses in prelimbic prefrontal neurons are correlated with fear expression and extinction failure. J Neurosci 29(26):8474-8482.
  • Peters J, Kalivas PW, Quirk GJ. (2009) Extinction circuits for fear and addiction overlap in prefrontal cortex. Learn Mem. 16:279-88.
  • Quirk GJ, Sotres-Bayon F (2009) Signaling aversive events in the midbrain: worse than expected. Neuron 61:655-656.
  • Rodriguez-Romaguera, J., Sotres-Bayon, F., Mueller, D., Quirk, G.J. (2009) Systemic propranolol acts centrally to reduce expression of cued fear in rats without impairing extinction learning. Biological Psychiatry 65:887-892.
  • Mueller D, Olivera-Figueroa L, Quirk  GJ (2009) The effects of yohimbine and amphetamine on fear expression and extinction in rats.  Psychopharmacology 204:599-606.
  • Martínez KG, Quirk GJ (2009) Extending fear extinction beyond anxiety disorders. Biol Psychiatry 65:453-454.
  • Li, G, Nair, S.S. and Quirk, G.J. (2009) A biologically realistic network model of acquisition and extinction of conditioned fear associations in lateral amygdala neurons. Journal of Neurophysiology 101:1629-1646.
  • Peters, J., Kalivas, P. W., Quirk, G.J. (2009) Extinction circuits for fear and addiction overlap in prefrontal cortex. Learning & Memory 16:279-288.
  • Li G, Nair J., Quirk G.J., and Nair S.S. (2008) Computational modeling: A tool for new psychiatric medication development. Psychiatric Annals 38:296-300.
  • Santini, E., Quirk, G.J., Porter, J.T.(2008) Fear conditioning and extinction differentially modify the intrinsic excitability of infralimbic neurons. Journal of Neuroscience 28:4028-4036.
  • Mueller D, Porter JT, Quirk GJ. (2008) Noradrenergic signaling in infralimbic cortex increases cell excitability and strengthens memory for fear extinction. J Neurosci. 28:369-75.
  • Quirk GJ, Mueller D. (2008) Neural Mechanisms of Extinction Learning and Retrieval.  Neuropsychopharmacology 33:56-72.
  • Milad MR, Quirk GJ, Pitman RK, Orr SP, Fischl B, Rauch SL. (2007) A Role for the Human Anterior Cingulate Cortex in Fear Expression. Biological Psychiatry 2:1191-4.
  • Burgos-Robles A,  Vidal-Gonzalez I, Santini E, Quirk GJ. (2007) Consolidation of fear extinction requires NMDA receptor-dependent bursting in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Neuron 53:871-880.
  • Corcoran KA and Quirk GJ. (2007) Recalling Safety: Coorperative functions of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex ant the hippocampus in extinction. CNS Spectr. 12:200-206.
  • Corcoran KA and Quirk GJ. (2007) Activity in prelimbic cortex is necessary for the expression of learned, but not innate, fears. J Neurosci. 27:840–844.
  • Milad MR, Wright CL, Orr SP, Pitman RK, Quirk GJ, Rauch SL. (2007) Recall of fear extinction in humans activates the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus in concert. Biological Psychiatry 62:446-454.
  • Quirk GJ and Beer JS. (2006) Prefrontal involvement in emotion regulation: Convergence of rat and human studies. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 16:723–727.
  • Vidal-González I, Vidal-González B, Rauch SL, and Quirk GJ. (2006) Microstimulation reveals opposing influences of prelimbic and infralimbic cortex on the expression of conditioned fear. Learning & Memory 13: 728-733.
  • Quirk GJ and Vidal-González I. (2006) Keeping the memories flowing. Nature Neurosci. 9:1199-1200.
  • Sierra-Mercado DJr, Corcoran KA, Lebron-Milad K, Quirk GJ. (2006) Inactivation of ventromedial prefrontal cortex reduces expression of conditioned fear and impairs subsequent recall of extinction. European J. Neuroscience 24: 1751-1758.
  • Milad MR, Rauch SL, Pitman RK and Quirk GJ. (2006) Fear extinction in rats: Implications for human brain imaging and anxiety disorders. Biological Psychiatry 73: 61-71.
  • Quirk GJ. (2006) Extinction: New Excitement for an old phenomenon. Biological Psychiatry 60: 317-318.
  • Quirk GJ, Garcia R, and Gonzalez-Lima F.  (2006) Prefrontal mechanisms in extinction of conditioned fear. Biological Psychiatry 60: 337-347.
  • Anglada-Figueroa D and Quirk GJ. (2005) Lesions of the Basal Amygdala Block Expression of Conditioned Fear But Not Extinction. J Neurosci. 25:9680-85.
  • Quirk GJ and Peña de Ortiz S. (2005) Stuck in Time Without a Nucleus: Theoretical Comment on Sangha et al. (2005). Behav Neurosci. 119:1155-57.
  • Maren S and Quirk GJ. (2004) Neuronal signaling of fear memory.  Nature Reviews Neuroscience 5: 844-852.
  • Lebron K, Milad MR, and Quirk GJ. (2004) Delayed Recall of Fear Extinction in Rats With Lesions of Ventral Medial Prefrontal Cortex. Learning & Memory 11: 544-548.
  • Paré D, Quirk GJ, and LeDoux JE.  (2004) New Vistas on Amygdala Networks in Conditioned Fear. J Neurophysiol.  92: 1-9.
  • Santini E, Hong Ge, Kequin Ren, Peña de Ortiz S, and Quirk GJ. (2004) Consolidation of Fear Extinction Requires Protein Synthesis in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex. J Neurosci. 24:5704-10.
  • Quirk GJ. (2004) Learning not to fear, faster. Learning & Memory 11:125-126.
  • Milad MR, Vidal-González I and Quirk GJ. (2004) Electrical stimulation of medial prefrontal cortex reduces conditioned fear in a temporally specific manner. Behav Neurosci. 118:389-94.
  • Quirk GJ, Likhtik E, Pelletier JG and Paré D. (2003) Stimulation of medial prefrontal cortex decreases the responsiveness of central amygdala output neurons. J Neurosci. 23:8800-8807.
  • Quirk GJ, Gehlert DR. (2003) Inhibition of the amygdala: key to pathological states?   Ann N Y Acad Sci. 985:263-72.
  • Quirk GJ. (2002) Memory for Extinction of Conditioned Fear Is Long-lasting and Persists Following Spontaneous Recovery. Learn Mem. 9:402-427.
  • Milad MR and Quirk GJ. (2002) Neurons in medial prefrontal cortex signal memory for fear extinction. Nature 240:70-74.
  • Santini E, Muller RU, and Quirk GJ. (2001) Consolidation of Extinction Learning Involves Transfer from NMDA-Independent to NMDA Dependent Memory.  J Neurosci. 21:9009-17.
  • Quirk GJ, Russo GK, Barron JL, and Lebron K. (2000) The Role of Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex in the Recovery of Extinguished Fear. J Neurosci. 20:6225-31.
  • Armony JL, Quirk GJ, and LeDoux JE. (1998) Differential Effects of Amygdala Lesions on Early and Late Plastic Components of Auditory Spike Trains during Fear Conditioning. J Neurosci. 18:2592-601.
  • Quirk GJ, Armony JL, and LeDoux JE. (1997) Fear Conditioning Enhances Different Temporal Components of Tone-Evoked Spike Trains in Auditory Cortex and Lateral Amygdala. Neuron 19:613-24.