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Nat Neurosci. 2016 Oct;19(10):1348-55. doi: 10.1038/nn.4370. Epub 2016 Sep 5.

Selective synaptic remodeling of amygdalocortical connections associated with fear memory.

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Institute of Neuroscience, State Key Laboratory of Neuroscience, CAS Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China.
Institute of Neuroscience, Graduate School, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, USA.


Neural circuits underlying auditory fear conditioning have been extensively studied. Here we identified a previously unexplored pathway from the lateral amygdala (LA) to the auditory cortex (ACx) and found that selective silencing of this pathway using chemo- and optogenetic approaches impaired fear memory retrieval. Dual-color in vivo two-photon imaging of mouse ACx showed pathway-specific increases in the formation of LA axon boutons, dendritic spines of ACx layer 5 pyramidal cells, and putative LA-ACx synaptic pairs after auditory fear conditioning. Furthermore, joint imaging of pre- and postsynaptic structures showed that essentially all new synaptic contacts were made by adding new partners to existing synaptic elements. Together, these findings identify an amygdalocortical projection that is important to fear memory expression and is selectively modified by associative fear learning, and unravel a distinct architectural rule for synapse formation in the adult brain.

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