The central nucleus of the amygdala is essential for acquiring and expressing conditional fear after overtraining
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The basolateral complex of the amygdala (BLA) is critical for the acquisition and expression of Pavlovian fear conditioning in rats. Nonetheless, rats with neurotoxic BLA lesions can acquire conditional fear after overtraining (75 trials). The capacity of rats with BLA lesions to acquire fear memory may be mediated by the central nucleus of the amygdala (CEA). To examine this issue, we examined the influence of neurotoxic CEA lesions or reversible inactivation of the CEA on the acquisition and expression of conditional freezing after overtraining in rats. Rats with pretraining CEA lesions (whether alone or in combination with BLA lesions) did not acquire conditional freezing to either the conditioning context or an auditory conditional stimulus after extensive overtraining. Similarly, post-training lesions of the CEA or BLA prevented the expression of overtrained fear. Lastly, muscimol infusions into the CEA prevented both the acquisition and the expression of overtrained fear, demonstrating that the effects of CEA lesions are not likely due to the destruction of en passant axons. These results suggest that the CEA is essential for conditional freezing after Pavlovian fear conditioning. Moreover, overtraining may engage a compensatory fear conditioning circuit involving the CEA in animals with damage to the BLA.
author list (cited authors)
Zimmerman, J. M., Rabinak, C. A., McLachlan, I. G., & Maren, S.