NMDA receptors are essential for the acquisition, but not expression, of conditional fear and associative spike firing in the lateral amygdala Academic Article uri icon


  • We examined the contribution of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors (NMDARs) to the acquisition and expression of amygdaloid plasticity and Pavlovian fear conditioning using single-unit recording techniques in behaving rats. We demonstrate that NMDARs are essential for the acquisition of both behavioral and neuronal correlates of conditional fear, but play a comparatively limited role in their expression. Administration of the competitive NMDAR antagonist +/--3-(2-carboxypiperazin-4-yl) propyl-1-phosphonic acid (CPP) prior to auditory fear conditioning completely abolished the acquisition of conditional freezing and conditional single-unit activity in the lateral amygdala (LA). In contrast, CPP given prior to extinction testing did not affect the expression of conditional single-unit activity in LA, despite producing deficits in conditional freezing. Administration of CPP also blocked the induction of long-term potentiation in the amygdala. Together, these data suggest that NMDARs are essential for the acquisition of conditioning-related plasticity in the amygdala, and that NMDARs are more critical for regulating synaptic plasticity and learning than routine synaptic transmission in the circuitry supporting fear conditioning.

author list (cited authors)

  • Goosens, K. A., & Maren, S.

citation count

  • 77

publication date

  • July 2004