[expand title=”Show Affiliations”]
- Department of Neuroscience, The Ohio State University, 1835 Neil Avenue, Room 49, Columbus, OH, 43210, USA.
- Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, 1835 Neil Avenue, Room 49, Columbus, OH, 43210, USA. [email protected]
- Department of Neuroscience, The Ohio State University, 1835 Neil Avenue, Room 49, Columbus, OH, 43210, USA. [email protected]
In delay eyeblink conditioning (EBC) a neutral conditioned stimulus (CS; tone) is repeatedly paired with a mildly aversive unconditioned stimulus (US; periorbital electrical shock). Over training, subjects learn to produce an anticipatory eyeblink conditioned response (CR) during the CS, prior to US onset. While cerebellar synaptic plasticity is necessary for successful EBC, the amygdala is proposed to enhance eyeblink CR acquisition. In the current study, adult Long-Evans rats received bilateral sham or neurotoxic lesions of the central nucleus of the amygdala (CEA) followed by 1 or 4 EBC sessions. Fear-evoked freezing behavior, CS-mediated enhancement of the unconditioned response (UR), and eyeblink CR acquisition were all impaired in the CEA lesion rats relative to sham controls. There were also significantly fewer c-Fos immunoreactive cells in the pontine nuclei (PN)-major relays of acoustic information to the cerebellum-following the first and fourth EBC session in lesion rats. In sham rats, freezing behavior decreased from session 1 to 4, commensurate with nucleus-specific reductions in amygdala Fos+ cell counts. Results suggest delay EBC proceeds through three stages: in stage one the amygdala rapidly excites diffuse fear responses and PN acoustic reactivity, facilitating cerebellar synaptic plasticity and the development of eyeblink CRs in stage two, leading, in stage three, to a diminution or stabilization of conditioned fear responding.