The neural basis of auditory fear conditioning (AFC) is almost universally believed to be the amygdala, where auditory fear memories are reputedly acquired and stored. This widely-accepted amygdala model holds that the auditory conditioned stimulus (CS) and the nociceptive unconditioned stimulus (US) first converge in the lateral nucleus of the amygdala (AL), and are projected independently to it from the medial division of the medial geniculate nucleus (MGm) and the adjacent posterior intralaminar nucleus (PIN), which serve merely as sensory relays. However, the four criteria that are used to support the AL model, (a) CS-US convergence, (b) associative plasticity, (c) LTP and (d) lesion-induced learning impairment, are also met by the MGm/PIN. Synaptic and molecular approaches supporting the AL also implicate the MGm/PIN. As both the AL and its preceding MGm/PIN are critically involved, we propose that the latter be considered the "root" of AFC.
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