The amygdala has long been implicated in conditioned fear. The mesencephalic dopaminergic system provides a rich innervation to the amygdala [J.H. Fallon, P. Ciofi, Distribution of monoamines within the amygdala, in: J.P. Aggleton (Ed.), The Amygdala: Neurobiological Aspects of Emotion, Memory and Mental Dysfunction, Wiley, New York, 1992, pp. 97-114; L.J. Freedman, M.D. Cassell, Distribution of dopaminergic fibers in the central division of the extended amygdala of the rat. Brain Research 633 (1994) 243-252; E. Asan, The catecholaminergic innervation of the rat amygdala. Advances in Anatomy Embryology and Cell Biology 142 (1996) 1-107]. Specific activation of the mesoamygdaloid dopaminergic system has been reported to occur in response to conditioned fear-arousing stimuli [M.L. Coco, C.M. Kuhn, T.D. Ely, C.D. Kilts, Selective activation of mesoamygdaloid dopamine neurons by conditioned stress: attenuation by diazepam. Brain Research 590 (1992) 39-47] suggesting that dopamine release in the amygdala may contribute to the acquisition and/or expression of conditioned fear. Using a 2x2 factorial design, Experiment 1A investigated the effects of bilateral intra-amygdaloid infusions of the selective D1 receptor antagonist, SCH 23390 (2.0 microgram 0.5 microliter-1 side-1), on the acquisition and expression of Pavlovian conditioned fear measured by freezing to acoustic and background contextual stimuli. Infusions of SCH 23390 prior to acquisition training, prior to retention testing or prior to both significantly attenuated conditioned freezing during retention testing. Experiment 1B investigated the dose-dependent effects of pre-training infusions of SCH 23390 (0.5, 1.0 and 2.0 microgram) on conditioned fear. Pre-training infusions of SCH 23390 dose-dependently attenuated conditioned freezing during retention testing. Experiment 2A investigated the effects of bilateral infusions of the selective D1 receptor agonist, SKF 82958 (2.0 microgram 0.5 microliter-1 side-1) on the acquisition and expression of conditioned fear. Infusions of SKF 82958 prior to training facilitated conditioned freezing during retention testing. Experiment 2B investigated the dose-dependent effects of pre-training infusions of SKF 82958 (1.0, 2.0 and 4.0 microgram) on conditioned fear. Pre-training infusions of SKF 82958 dose-dependently facilitated conditioned freezing during retention testing. In conclusion, these results suggest that dopamine transmission within the amygdala contributes to the acquisition and expression of Pavlovian fear conditioning.
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