Fear conditioning is a valuable behavioral paradigm for studying the neural basis of emotional learning and memory. The lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA) is a crucial site of neural changes that occur during fear conditioning. Pharmacological manipulations of the LA, strategically timed with respect to training and testing, have shed light on the molecular events that mediate the acquisition of fear associations and the formation and maintenance of long-term memories of those associations. Similar mechanisms have been found to underlie long-term potentiation (LTP) in LA, an artificial means of inducing synaptic plasticity and a physiological model of learning and memory. Thus, LTP-like changes in synaptic plasticity may underlie fear conditioning. Given that the neural circuit underlying fear conditioning has been implicated in emotional disorders in humans, the molecular mechanisms of fear conditioning are potential targets for psychotherapeutic drug development.
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