Long-term memory for pavlovian fear conditioning requires dopamine in the nucleus accumbens and basolateral amygdala

PLoS One. 2010 Sep 15;5(9):e12751. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012751.


The neurotransmitter dopamine (DA) is essential for learning in a pavlovian fear conditioning paradigm known as fear-potentiated startle (FPS). Mice lacking the ability to synthesize DA fail to learn the association between the conditioned stimulus and the fear-inducing footshock. Previously, we demonstrated that restoration of DA synthesis to neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) was sufficient to restore FPS. Here, we used a target-selective viral restoration approach to determine which mesocorticolimbic brain regions receiving DA signaling from the VTA require DA for FPS. We demonstrate that restoration of DA synthesis to both the basolateral amygdala (BLA) and nucleus accumbens (NAc) is required for long-term memory of FPS. These data provide crucial insight into the dopamine-dependent circuitry involved in the formation of fear-related memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Dopamine / genetics
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Memory, Long-Term*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism*
  • Reflex, Startle


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Dopamine