Role of amygdala-prefrontal cortex circuitry in regulating the expression of contextual fear memory

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2011 Sep;96(2):315-23. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2011.06.005. Epub 2011 Jun 13.


The basolateral amygdala (BLA) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) are inter-connected regions involved in fear memory expression. The reciprocal nature of projections between these areas differs along the rostrocaudal extent of BLA. This study investigated the role of functional interactions between BLA and the prelimbic (PL) subregion of mPFC in mediating contextual fear memory. Freezing served as the measure of conditioned fear. Experiments 1-3 examined the effects of left, right or bilateral infusion of bupivacaine into anterior BLA (aBLA), posterior BLA (pBLA) or PL on fear memory expression. Reversible inactivation of left, right or bilateral aBLA impaired fear memory expression. Bilateral inactivation of pBLA or PL also disrupted the expression of fear memory, although left or right inactivation alone had no significant effects in either region. Experiment 4 examined the effects of functionally disconnecting pBLA and PL on contextual fear memory by infusing bupivacaine unilaterally into pBLA and PL in the ipsilateral or contralateral hemisphere. Fear memory expression was impaired by asymmetric inactivation of pBLA and PL; however, a similar effect was also observed with symmetric inactivation of these regions. Bupivacaine infusion did not affect behavior in the open field, likely ruling out non-specific effects of inactivation on innate fear and locomotor activity. These results demonstrate different roles for rostral and caudal BLA in mediating the expression of contextual fear memory. They also raise the possibility that pBLA-PL circuitry is involved in subserving fear memory expression via complex processing mechanisms, although further research is needed to confirm this preliminary finding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / drug effects
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Anesthetics, Local / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Association Learning / drug effects
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Bupivacaine / pharmacology
  • Conditioning, Classical / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology
  • Fear / drug effects
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / drug effects
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rats


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Bupivacaine