The Amygdala Is Essential for the Development of Neuronal Plasticity in the Medial Geniculate Nucleus during Auditory Fear Conditioning in Rats
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The medial geniculate nucleus of the thalamus (MGN) and the basolateral complex of the amygdala (BLA) are critical components of the neural circuit that mediates auditory fear conditioning. Several studies indicate that neurons in both the MGN and BLA exhibit associative plasticity of spike firing during auditory fear conditioning. In the present study, we examined whether the development of plasticity in the MGN requires the BLA. Single units were recorded from chronic multichannel electrodes implanted in the medial division of the MGN of conscious and freely moving rats. Rats received auditory fear conditioning trials, which consisted of a white-noise conditional stimulus (CS) and a co-terminating footshock unconditional stimulus (US). Unpaired (sensitization) controls received the same number of trials as paired animals, but the CS and US were explicitly unpaired. Before fear conditioning, rats received either an intra-amygdala infusion of muscimol, a GABA(A) receptor agonist, to inactivate BLA neurons or an infusion of the saline vehicle. Auditory fear conditioning produced a substantial increase in both CS-elicited spike firing in the MGN and conditional freezing behavior in vehicle-treated rats receiving paired training. Muscimol inactivation of the BLA severely attenuated the development of both conditioning-related increases in CS-elicited spike firing in the MGN and conditional freezing to the auditory CS. Unpaired training did not yield increases in either CS-elicited spike firing or freezing to the tone CS. These results reveal that the BLA is essential to the development of plasticity in the auditory thalamus during fear conditioning.
author list (cited authors)
Maren, S., Yap, S. A., & Goosens, K. A.