Neuronal signalling of fear memory

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2004 Nov;5(11):844-52. doi: 10.1038/nrn1535.


The learning and remembering of fearful events depends on the integrity of the amygdala, but how are fear memories represented in the activity of amygdala neurons? Here, we review recent electrophysiological studies indicating that neurons in the lateral amygdala encode aversive memories during the acquisition and extinction of Pavlovian fear conditioning. Studies that combine unit recording with brain lesions and pharmacological inactivation provide evidence that the lateral amygdala is a crucial locus of fear memory. Extinction of fear memory reduces associative plasticity in the lateral amygdala and involves the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Understanding the signalling of aversive memory by amygdala neurons opens new avenues for research into the neural systems that support fear behaviour.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Animals
  • Extinction, Psychological
  • Fear*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*