Pavlovian fear conditioning has emerged as a leading behavioral paradigm for studying the neurobiological basis of learning and memory. Although considerable progress has been made in understanding the neural substrates of fear conditioning at the systems level, until recently little has been learned about the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms. The success of systems-level work aimed at defining the neuroanatomical pathways underlying fear conditioning, combined with the knowledge accumulated by studies of long-term potentiation (LTP), has recently given way to new insights into the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie acquisition and consolidation of fear memories. Collectively, these findings suggest that fear memory consolidation in the amygdala shares essential biochemical features with LTP, and hold promise for understanding the relationship between memory consolidation and synaptic plasticity in the mammalian brain.
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