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Learn Mem. 2001 May-Jun;8(3):156-63.

Damage to the lateral and central, but not other, amygdaloid nuclei prevents the acquisition of auditory fear conditioning.

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W.M. Keck Foundation Laboratory for Neurobiology, Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, New York 10003, USA.


It is well established that the amygdala plays an essential role in Pavlovian fear conditioning, with the lateral nucleus serving as the interface with sensory systems that transmit the conditioned stimulus and the central nucleus as the link with motor regions that control conditioned fear responses. The lateral nucleus connects with the central nucleus directly and by way of several other amygdala regions, including the basal, accessory basal, and medial nuclei. To determine which of these regions is necessary, and thus whether conditioning requires the direct or one of the indirect intra-amygdala pathways, we made lesions in rats of the lateral, central, basal, accessory basal, and medial nuclei, as well as combined lesions of the basal and accessory basal nuclei and of the entire amygdala. Animals subsequently underwent fear conditioning trials in which an auditory conditioned stimulus was paired with a footshock unconditioned stimulus. Animals that received lesions of the lateral or central nucleus, or of the entire amygdala, were dramatically impaired, whereas the other lesions had little effect. These findings show that only the lateral and central nuclei are necessary for the acquisition of conditioned fear response to an auditory conditioned stimulus.

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