Unconditioned stimulus pathways to the amygdala: Effects of posterior thalamic and cortical lesions on fear conditioning

E. Lanuza, K. Nader, J. E. Ledoux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plasticity in the lateral nucleus of the amygdala is thought to be critical for the acquisition of Pavlovian fear conditioning. The pathways that transmit auditory conditioned stimulus information originate in auditory processing regions of the thalamus and cortex, but the pathways mediating transmission of unconditioned stimuli to the amygdala are poorly understood. Recent studies suggest that somatosensory (footshock) unconditioned stimulus information is also relayed in parallel to the lateral nucleus of the amygdala from the thalamus (the posterior intralaminar thalamic complex, PIT) and the cortex (parietal insular cortex). In the present study we reexamined this issue. Our results showed that bilateral electrolytic lesions of the PIT alone blocked fear conditioning, whereas bilateral excitotoxic PIT lesions had no effect. These electrolytic PIT lesions did not affect fear conditioning using a loud noise as unconditioned stimulus, defining the effects of PIT lesions as a disruption of somatosensory as opposed to auditory processing. Finally, we performed combined bilateral excitotoxic lesions of the PIT nuclei and electrolytic lesions of the parietal insular cortex. These, like excitotoxic lesions of PIT alone, had no effect on the acquisition of fear conditioning. Thus, somatosensory regions of the thalamus and cortex may well be important routes of unconditioned stimulus transmission to the amygdala in fear conditioning, but information about the unconditioned somatosensory stimulus is also transmitted from other sources that send fibers through, but do not form essential synapses in, the thalamus en route to the amygdala.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-315
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004


  • CS
  • Conditioned stimulus
  • Emotional learning
  • Footshock pathways
  • LA
  • Lateral nucleus of the amygdala
  • MGm
  • Medial geniculate nucleus, medial division
  • Neurotoxic lesions
  • PIN
  • PaIC
  • Pain
  • Parietal insular cortex
  • Posterior intralaminar thalamic complex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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