Basolateral amygdaloid multi-unit neuronal correlates of discriminative avoidance learning in rabbits
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Basolateral (BL) amygdaloid multi-unit activity was recorded as male albino rabbits learned to avoid a foot-shock unconditioned stimulus (US) by stepping in an activity wheel to an acoustic (pure tone) warning stimulus (CS+). A second tone (CS-) of different auditory frequency than the CS+ was presented in an irregular order on half of the conditioning trials but was never followed by the US. BL amygdaloid neurons developed, in the first session of conditioning, enhanced CS-elicited discharges relative to discharges recorded during pretraining with tones and noncontingent US presentations (excitatory plasticity), and greater discharges to the CS+ than to the CS- (discriminative plasticity). The discriminative plasticity attained maximal magnitude as the rabbits reached the asymptote of behavioral discrimination, and persisted during post-asymptotic training. Peak excitatory plasticity occurred in the session of the first significant behavioral discrimination and declined during the asymptotic and post-asymptotic stages of training. Similar patterns of excitatory and discriminative plasticity in structures directly interconnected with the BL nucleus (anterior cingulate cortex; medial dorsal thalamic nucleus) and effects of lesions suggest that the neurons in these areas participate in a circuit involved in mediation of avoidance learning.
author list (cited authors)
Maren, S., Poremba, A., & Gabriel, M.