NMDA receptors in the CeA and BNST differentially regulate fear conditioning to predictable and unpredictable threats Academic Article uri icon


  • Considerable work demonstrates that Pavlovian fear conditioning depends on N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-dependent plasticity within the amygdala. In addition, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) has also been implicated in fear conditioning, particularly in the expression of fear to poor predictors of threat. We recently found that the expression of backward (BW) fear conditioning, in which an auditory conditioned stimulus (CS) follows a footshock unconditioned stimulus (US), requires the BNST; the expression of forward (FW) fear conditioning was not disrupted by BNST inactivation. However, whether NMDA receptors within the BNST contribute to the acquisition of fear conditioning is unknown. Moreover, the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA), which has extensive connections with the BNST, is critically involved in FW conditioning, however whether it participates in BW conditioning has not been explored. Here we test the specific hypothesis that the CeA and the BNST mediate the acquisition of FW and BW fear conditioning, respectively. Adult female and male rats were randomly assigned to receive bilateral infusions of the NMDA receptor antagonist, D,L-2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate (APV), into the CeA or BNST prior to FW or BW fear conditioning. We found that intra-CeA APV impaired the acquisition of both FW and BW conditioning, whereas intra-BNST APV produced selective deficits in BW conditioning. Moreover, APV in the BNST significantly reduced contextual freezing, whereas CeA NMDA receptor antagonism impeded early but not long-lasting contextual fear. Collectively, these data reveal that CeA and BNST NMDA receptors have unique roles in fear conditioning.

altmetric score

  • 8.85

author list (cited authors)

  • Ressler, R. L., Goode, T. D., Evemy, C., & Maren, S.

citation count

  • 5

publication date

  • July 2020