Inhibition of pyramidal neurons in the basal amygdala promotes fear learning

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The basolateral amygdala complex, which contains the lateral (LA) and basal (BA) subnuclei, is a critical substrate of associative learning related to reward and aversive stimuli. Auditory fear conditioning studies in rodents have shown that the excitation of LA pyramidal neurons, driven by the inhibition of local GABAergic interneurons, is critical to fear memory formation. Studies examining the role of the BA in auditory fear conditioning, however, have yielded divergent outcomes. Here, we used a neuron-specific chemogenetic approach to manipulate the excitability of mouse BA neurons during auditory fear conditioning. We found that chemogenetic inhibition of BA GABA neurons, but not BA pyramidal neurons, impaired fear learning. Further, either chemogenetic stimulation of BA GABA neurons or chemogenetic inhibition of BA pyramidal neurons was sufficient to generate the formation of an association between a behavior and a neutral auditory cue. This chemogenetic memory required presentation of a discrete cue, and was not attributable to an effect of BA pyramidal neuron inhibition on general freezing behavior, locomotor activity, or anxiety. Collectively, these data suggest that BA GABA neuron activation and the subsequent inhibition of BA pyramidal neurons play important role in fear learning. Moreover, the roles of inhibitory signaling differ between the LA and BA, with excitation of pyramidal neurons promoting memory formation in the former, and inhibition of pyramidal neurons playing this role in the latter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0272-18.2018
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Tipps et al.


  • Basal amygdala
  • Fear conditioning
  • Inhibitory signaling
  • Learning and memory


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