Lesions of the basal amygdala block expression of conditioned fear but not extinction
ABSTRACT Although the role of the amygdala in acquisition of conditioned fear is well established, there is debate concerning the intra-amygdala circuits involved. The lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA) is thought to be an essential site of plasticity in fear conditioning. The LA has both direct and indirect [via the basal nuclei; basal amygdala (BA)] projections to the central nucleus (Ce) of the amygdala, an essential output for fear behaviors. Lesions of the LA or Ce prevent acquisition of conditioned freezing to a conditioned stimulus, but BA lesions do not, suggesting that the BA is not normally involved in fear conditioning. If true, posttraining BA lesions should also have no effect. Replicating previous studies, we found that rats given electrolytic BA lesions before training acquired conditioned fear normally. They also showed normal long-term retention and extinction of conditioned fear. Unexpectedly, BA lesions made after training completely blocked expression of conditioned fear. Despite this deficit, lesioned rats were able to learn a new tone-shock association. Thus, although the LA-Ce system is sufficient for fear acquisition in the absence of the BA, it is not sufficient when the BA is present, suggesting that the BA is an important site of plasticity in fear conditioning. The pattern of lesion deficits we observed (after but not before training) might be explained by homeostatic mechanisms that balance plasticity over multiple inputs, regulating the influence of the BA and LA onto Ce output neurons.
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ABSTRACT: Pavlovian conditioned stimuli (CSs) play an important role in the reinforcement and motivation of instrumental active avoidance (AA). Conditioned threats can also invigorate ongoing AA responding [aversive Pavlovian-instrumental transfer (PIT)]. The neural circuits mediating AA are poorly understood, although lesion studies suggest that lateral, basal, and central amygdala nuclei, as well as infralimbic prefrontal cortex, make key, and sometimes opposing, contributions. We recently completed an extensive analysis of brain c-Fos expression in good vs. poor avoiders following an AA test (Martinez et al., 2013, Learning and Memory). This analysis identified medial amygdala (MeA) as a potentially important region for Pavlovian motivation of instrumental actions. MeA is known to mediate defensive responding to innate threats as well as social behaviors, but its role in mediating aversive Pavlovian-instrumental interactions is unknown. We evaluated the effect of MeA lesions on Pavlovian conditioning, Sidman two-way AA conditioning (shuttling) and aversive PIT in rats. Mild footshocks served as the unconditioned stimulus in all conditioning phases. MeA lesions had no effect on AA but blocked the expression of aversive PIT and 22 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations in the AA context. Interestingly, MeA lesions failed to affect Pavlovian freezing to discrete threats but reduced freezing to contextual threats when assessed outside of the AA chamber. These findings differentiate MeA from lateral and central amygdala, as lesions of these nuclei disrupt Pavlovian freezing and aversive PIT, but have opposite effects on AA performance. Taken together, these results suggest that MeA plays a selective role in the motivation of instrumental avoidance by general or uncertain Pavlovian threats.Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 09/2014; 8:329. DOI:10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00329 · 4.16 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Individuals use both passive and active defensive responses to environmental threats. Much is known about the neural circuits of passive defensive responses (e.g., freezing), but less is known about the substrates of active defensive responses (e.g., avoidance). We developed an active avoidance task in which rats learn to avoid a tone-signaled footshock by stepping onto a nearby platform. An advantage of this task is that freezing, which can interfere with avoidance, is reduced, thereby facilitating comparison of the effects of manipulations on avoidance versus freezing. After 10 d of avoidance training, rats were infused with muscimol to pharmacologically inactivate the prelimbic cortex (PL), infralimbic cortex (IL), ventral striatum (VS), or basolateral amygdala (BLA). Inactivating PL, VS, or BLA all impaired avoidance expression, but these areas differed with respect to freezing. Inactivating BLA decreased freezing consistent with loss of the tone-shock association, whereas inactivation of VS increased freezing consistent with loss of avoidance memory. Inactivation of PL had no effect on freezing. Inactivation of IL did not impair avoidance expression but did impair avoidance extinction. Our findings suggest that active avoidance is mediated by prefrontal-striatal circuits, which may be overactive in individuals suffering from trauma-related disorders.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 07/2014; 34(29):9736-42. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0191-14.2014 · 6.75 Impact Factor