Equipotentiality of thalamo-amygdala and thalamo-cortico-amygdala circuits in auditory fear conditioning

L. M. Romanski, J. E. LeDoux

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The goal of the present study was to examine the contribution of thalamo- amygdala and thalamo-cortico-amygdala projections to fear conditioning. Lesions were used to destroy either the thalamo-cortico-amygdala projection, the thalamo-amygdala projection, or both projections, and the effects of such lesions on the acquisition of conditioned fear responses (changes in arterial pressure and freezing behavior) to a tone paired with footshock were measured. In each group of animals examined, a large lesion of the acoustic thalamus, including all nuclei of the medial geniculate body and adjacent portions of the posterior thalamus, was made on one side of the brain to block auditory transmission to the forebrain at the level of the thalamus on that side. In this way, experimental lesions could be made on the contralateral side of the brain. Thus, animals with thalamo-amygdala pathway lesions received a large lesion of the acoustic thalamus on one side. Contralaterally, only the nuclei that project to the amygdala (the medial division of the medial geniculate body, the posterior intralaminar nucleus, and the suprageniculate nucleus) were selectively destroyed, leaving much of the thalamo-cortico-amygdala projection intact. For thalamo-cortico-amygdala pathway lesions, the acoustic thalamus was destroyed on one side and temporal and perirhinal cortices were ablated contralaterally. In these animals, thalamo-amygdala projections were intact on the side of the cortical lesion. Destruction of either pathway alone had no effect on auditory fear conditioning. However, combined lesions of the two sensory pathways disrupted conditioning. Thus, auditory conditioned stimulus (CS) transmission to the amygdala is necessary in fear conditioning but either thalamo-amygdala or thalamo-cortico-amygdala projections are sufficient as CS transmission routes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4501-4509
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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