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Neuroscience. 2015 Jul 23;299:45-55. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.04.068. Epub 2015 May 2.

Auditory cortex involvement in emotional learning and memory.

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Rita Levi-Montalcini Department of Neuroscience, University of Turin, Corso Raffaello 30, I-10125 Turin, Italy.
Rita Levi-Montalcini Department of Neuroscience, University of Turin, Corso Raffaello 30, I-10125 Turin, Italy; National Institute of Neuroscience, Italy. Electronic address:


Emotional memories represent the core of human and animal life and drive future choices and behaviors. Early research involving brain lesion studies in animals lead to the idea that the auditory cortex participates in emotional learning by processing the sensory features of auditory stimuli paired with emotional consequences and by transmitting this information to the amygdala. Nevertheless, electrophysiological and imaging studies revealed that, following emotional experiences, the auditory cortex undergoes learning-induced changes that are highly specific, associative and long lasting. These studies suggested that the role played by the auditory cortex goes beyond stimulus elaboration and transmission. Here, we discuss three major perspectives created by these data. In particular, we analyze the possible roles of the auditory cortex in emotional learning, we examine the recruitment of the auditory cortex during early and late memory trace encoding, and finally we consider the functional interplay between the auditory cortex and subcortical nuclei, such as the amygdala, that process affective information. We conclude that, starting from the early phase of memory encoding, the auditory cortex has a more prominent role in emotional learning, through its connections with subcortical nuclei, than is typically acknowledged.


amygdala; auditory cortex; emotional learning; fear conditioning; long-term memory consolidation

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