Fear Conditioning and Long-Term Potentiation in the Amygdala: What Really Is the Connection?

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008;1129:88-95. doi: 10.1196/annals.1417.020.


The cellular mechanisms that underlie learning and memory formation remain one of the most intriguing unknowns about the mammalian brain. A plethora of experimental evidence over the last 30 years has established that long-term synaptic plasticity at excitatory synapses is the most likely mechanism that underlies learning and memory formation. Experiments done largely in acute brain slices maintained in vitro have revealed many of the molecular mechanisms in the induction and maintenance of long-term potentiation (LTP). However, evidence directly liking LTP with learning and memory formation has not been established. Pavlovian fear conditioning is a good candidate to provide such evidence. The relations between events that produce fear conditioning are simple; these relations and their fear products involve circuits in the amygdala that are well understood, as are those circuits in the amygdala that underlie LTP. The evidence that links LTP in the amygdala with fear conditioning is reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology*
  • Fear*
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Models, Biological