Associative Structure of Fear Memory After Basolateral Amygdala Lesions in Rats
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The authors have recently demonstrated that rats with basolateral amygdala (BLA) lesions acquire Pavlovian fear conditioning after overtraining. However, it is not known whether the associative basis of Pavlovian fear memory acquired by rats with BLA lesions is similar to that of intact rats. Associations are typically formed between the conditional (CS) and unconditional (US) stimuli (stimulus-stimulus; S-S), although it is possible for stimuli to enter into association with the responses they produce (stimulus-response; S-R). Indeed, the central nucleus of the amygdala, which is essential for fear conditioning in rats with BLA lesions, may mediate S-R associations in some Pavlovian tasks. The authors therefore used a postconditioning US inflation procedure (i.e., exposure to intense footshock USs) to assess the contribution of S-S associations to fear conditioning after overtraining in rats with BLA lesions. In Experiment 1, intact rats that were overtrained and later inflated displayed elevated freezing levels when tested, indicating that S-S associations contribute to overtrained fear memories. Interestingly, neither neurotoxic BLA lesions nor temporary inactivation of the BLA during overtraining prevented the inflation effect (Experiment 2 and 3, respectively). These results reveal that S-S associations support Pavlovian fear memories after overtraining in both intact rats and rats with BLA lesions, and imply that the central nucleus of the amygdala encodes CS-US associations during fear conditioning.
author list (cited authors)
Rabinak, C. A., & Maren, S.