NMDA receptor antagonism in the basolateral but not central amygdala blocks the extinction of Pavlovian fear conditioning in rats.
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Glutamate receptors in the basolateral complex of the amygdala (BLA) are essential for the acquisition, expression and extinction of Pavlovian fear conditioning in rats. Recent work has revealed that glutamate receptors in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CEA) are also involved in the acquisition of conditional fear, but it is not known whether they play a role in fear extinction. Here we examine this issue by infusing glutamate receptor antagonists into the BLA or CEA prior to the extinction of fear to an auditory conditioned stimulus (CS) in rats. Infusion of the alpha-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate (AMPA) receptor antagonist, 2,3-dihydroxy-6-nitro-7-sulfamoyl-benzo[f]quinoxaline-2,3-dione (NBQX), into either the CEA or BLA impaired the expression of conditioned freezing to the auditory CS, but did not impair the formation of a long-term extinction memory to that CS. In contrast, infusion of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, D,L-2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid (APV), into the amygdala, spared the expression of fear to the CS during extinction training, but impaired the acquisition of a long-term extinction memory. Importantly, only APV infusions into the BLA impaired extinction memory. These results reveal that AMPA and NMDA receptors within the amygdala make dissociable contributions to the expression and extinction of conditioned fear, respectively. Moreover, they indicate that NMDA receptor-dependent processes involved in extinction learning are localized to the BLA. Together with previous work, these results reveal that NMDA receptors in the CEA have a selective role acquisition of fear memory.