Synaptic plasticity is a cellular mechanism putatively underlying learning and memory. However, it is unclear whether learning induces synaptic modification globally or only in a subset of neurons in associated brain regions. In this study, we genetically identified neurons activated during contextual fear learning and separately recorded synaptic efficacy from recruited and nonrecruited neurons in the mouse basolateral amygdala (BLA). We found that the fear learning induces presynaptic potentiation, which was reflected by an increase in the miniature EPSC frequency and by a decrease in the paired-pulse ratio. Changes occurred only in the cortical synapses targeting the BLA neurons that were recruited into the fear memory trace. Furthermore, we found that fear learning reorganizes the neuronal ensemble responsive to the conditioning context in conjunction with the synaptic plasticity. In particular, the neuronal activity during learning was associated with the neuronal recruitment into the context-responsive ensemble. These findings suggest that synaptic plasticity in a subset of BLA neurons contributes to fear memory expression through ensemble reorganization.
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