Author(s): McKernan MG, ShinnickGallagher P, McKernan MG, ShinnickGallagher P
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Abstract The amygdala plays a critical role in the mediation of emotional responses, particularly fear, in both humans and animals. Fear conditioning, a conditioned learning paradigm, has served as a model for emotional learning in animals, and the neuroanatomical circuitry underlying the auditory fear-conditioning paradigm is well characterized. Synaptic transmission in the medial geniculate nucleus (MGN) to lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA) pathway, a key segment of the auditory fear conditioning circuit, is mediated largely through N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and non-NMDA (such as alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA)) glutamate receptors; the potential for neural plasticity in this pathway is suggested by its capacity to support long-term potentiation (LTP). Here we report a long-lasting increase in the synaptic efficacy of the MGN-LA pathway attributable to fear-conditioning itself, rather than an electrically induced model of learning. Fear-conditioned animals show a presynaptic facilitation of AMPA-receptor-mediated transmission, directly measured in vitro with whole-cell recordings in lateral amygdala neurons. These findings represent one of the first in vitro measures of synaptic plasticity resulting from emotional learning by whole animals.
This article was published in Nature
and referenced in Journal of Psychiatry