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Learn Mem. 2006 Mar-Apr;13(2):192-200. Epub 2006 Mar 17.

Differential involvement of the central amygdala in appetitive versus aversive learning.

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Department of Neurophysiology, Nencki Institute, Pasteur 3, PL-02-093 Warsaw, Poland.


Understanding the function of the distinct amygdaloid nuclei in learning comprises a major challenge. In the two studies described herein, we used c-Fos immunolabeling to compare the engagement of various nuclei of the amygdala in appetitive and aversive instrumental training procedures. In the first experiment, rats that had already acquired a bar-pressing response to a partial food reinforcement were further trained to learn that an acoustic stimulus signaled either continuous food reinforcement (appetitive training) or a footshock (aversive training). The first training session of the presentation of the acoustic stimulus resulted in significant increases of c-Fos immunolabeling throughout the amygdala; however, the pattern of activation of the nuclei of the amygdala differed according to the valence of motivation. The medial part of the central amygdala (CE) responded, surprisingly, to the appetitive conditioning selectively. The second experiment was designed to extend the aversive versus appetitive conditioning to mice, trained either for place preference or place avoidance in an automated learning system (INTELLICAGE). Again, much more intense c-Fos expression was observed in the medial part of the CE after the appetitive training as compared to the aversive training. These data, obtained in two species and by means of novel experimental approaches balancing appetitive versus aversive conditioning, support the hypothesis that the central nucleus of the amygdala is particularly involved in appetitively motivated learning processes.

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