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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2010 Mar;93(3):406-14. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2009.12.007. Epub 2009 Dec 22.

Neuronal representation of conditioned taste in the basolateral amygdala of rats.

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University of Washington, Department of Psychology, Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Animals develop robust learning and long lasting taste aversion memory once they experience a new taste that is followed by visceral discomfort. A large body of literature has supported the hypothesis that basolateral amygdala (BLA) plays a critical role in the acquisition and extinction of such conditioned taste aversions (CTA). Despite the evidence that BLA is crucially engaged during CTA training, it is unclear how BLA neural activity represents the conditioned tastes. Here, we incorporated a modified behavioral paradigm suitable for single unit study, one which utilizes a sequence of pulsed saccharin and water infusion via intraoral cannulae. After conditioning, we investigated BLA unit activity while animals experience the conditioned taste (saccharin). Behavioral tests of taste reactivity confirmed that the utilized training procedure produced reliable acquisition and expression of the aversion throughout test sessions. When neural activity was compared between saccharin and water trials, half of the recorded BLA units (77/149) showed differential activity according to the types of solution. 76% of those cells (29/38) in the conditioned group showed suppressed activity, while only 44% of taste reactive cells (17/39) in controls showed suppressed activity during saccharin trials (relative to water trials). In addition, the overall excitability of BLA units was increased as shown by altered characteristics of burst activity after conditioning. The changes in BLA activity as a consequence of CTA were maintained throughout test sessions, consistent with the behavioral study. The current study suggests that the neuronal activity evoked by a sweet taste is altered as a consequence of CTA learning, and that the overall change might be related to the learning induced negative affect.

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