Contribution of the amygdala to learning and performance of conditional fear

Physiol Behav. 1992 Jun;51(6):1271-6. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(92)90320-2.


The amygdaloid complex appears to be an essential component in the neural systems mediating some forms of aversive Pavlovian conditioning. The relative contribution of this structure to acquisition and performance during fear conditioning was assessed by making temporary lesions in the amygdala prior to training or retention testing in a single-trial Pavlovian conditioning preparation. Microinjection of lidocaine HCl (5.0%, 1.0 microliters) into the amygdala prior to the presentation of a CS signalling footshock resulted in a significant attenuation of the performance of conditional fear, as indexed by the amount of time rats spent engaged in defensive freezing behavior during the retention session. However, similar treatment with lidocaine prior to the training session, during which the CS and UCS were paired, resulted in only a weak reduction in subsequent responding. Thus, while both acquisition- and performance-related processes take place within the amygdala, it appears that the latter are more sensitive to disruption using the present procedures. These results are discussed in terms of the general role played by this structure in aversive learning and motivational processes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Classical / drug effects
  • Electroshock
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Female
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Lidocaine / pharmacology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Rats


  • Lidocaine