Conditioned fear inhibits c-fos mRNA expression in the central extended amygdala

Brain Res. 2008 Sep 10:1229:137-46. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2008.06.085. Epub 2008 Jul 2.


We have shown previously that unconditioned stressors inhibit neurons of the lateral/capsular division of the central nucleus of the amygdala (CEAl/c) and oval division of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTov), which form part of the central extended amygdala. The current study investigated whether conditioned fear inhibits c-fos mRNA expression in these regions. Male rats were trained either to associate a visual stimulus (light) with footshock or were exposed to the light alone. After training, animals were replaced in the apparatus, and 2 h later injected remotely, via a catheter, with amphetamine (2 mg/kg i.p.), to induce c-fos mRNA and allow inhibition of expression to be measured. The rats were then presented with 15 visual stimuli over a 30 minute period. As expected, fear conditioned animals that were not injected with amphetamine, had extremely low levels of c-fos mRNA in the central extended amygdala. In contrast, animals that were trained with the light alone (no fear conditioning) and were injected with amphetamine had high levels of c-fos mRNA in the CEAl/c and BSTov. Animals that underwent fear conditioning, and were re-exposed to the conditioned stimulus after amphetamine injection had significantly reduced levels of c-fos mRNA in both the BSTov and CEAl/c, compared to the non-conditioned animals. These data suggest that conditioned fear can inhibit neurons of the central extended amygdala. Because these neurons are GABAergic, and project to the medial CEA (an amygdaloid output region), this may be a novel mechanism whereby conditioned fear potentiates amygdaloid output.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamine / pharmacology
  • Amygdala / metabolism*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Electroshock / adverse effects
  • Fear*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / radiation effects
  • Male
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Amphetamine