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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2013 Nov;106:127-33. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2013.07.010. Epub 2013 Jul 24.

Elevated Arc/Arg 3.1 protein expression in the basolateral amygdala following auditory trace-cued fear conditioning.

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Psychology Department, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 603 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820, USA. Electronic address:


The underlying neuronal mechanisms of learning and memory have been heavily explored using associative learning paradigms. Two of the more commonly employed learning paradigms have been contextual and delay fear conditioning. In fear conditioning, a subject learns to associate a neutral stimulus (conditioned stimulus; CS), such as a tone or the context of the room, with a fear provoking stimulus (unconditioned stimulus; US), such as a mild footshock. Utilizing these two paradigms, various analyses have elegantly demonstrated that the amygdala plays a role in both fear-related associative learning paradigms. However, the amygdala's involvement in trace fear conditioning, a forebrain-dependent fear associative learning paradigm that has been suggested to tap into higher cognitive processes, has not been closely investigated. Furthermore, to our knowledge, the specific amygdala nuclei involved with trace fear conditioning has not been examined. The present study used Arc expression as an activity marker to determine the amygdala's involvement in trace fear associative learning and to further explore involvement of specific amygdalar nuclei. Arc is an immediate early gene that has been shown to be associated with neuronal activation and is believed to be necessary for neuronal plasticity. Findings from the present study demonstrated that trace-conditioned mice, compared to backward-conditioned (stimulation-control), delay-conditioned and naïve mice, exhibited elevated amygdalar Arc expression in the basolateral (BLA) but not the central (CeA) or the lateral amygdala (LA). These findings are consistent with previous reports demonstrating that the amygdala plays a critical role in trace conditioning. Furthermore, these findings parallel studies demonstrating hippocampal-BLA activation following contextual fear conditioning, suggesting that trace fear conditioning and contextual fear conditioning may involve similar amygdala nuclei. Together, findings from this study demonstrate similarities in the pathway for trace and contextual fear conditioning, and further suggest possible underlying mechanisms for acquisition and consolidation of these two types of fear-related learning.


Central amygdala; Contextual fear conditioning; Lateral amygdala; Memory consolidation; Synaptic plasticity; Trace-fear conditioning

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