Pharmacological depletion of serotonin in the basolateral amygdala complex reduces anxiety and disrupts fear conditioning

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2015 Nov:138:174-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2015.09.021.


The basolateral and lateral amygdala nuclei complex (BLC) is implicated in a number of emotional responses including conditioned fear and social anxiety. Based on previous studies demonstrating that enhanced serotonin release in the BLC leads to increased anxiety and fear responses, we hypothesized that pharmacologically depleting serotonin in the BLC using 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine (5,7-DHT) injections would lead to diminished anxiety and disrupted fear conditioning. To test this hypothesis, 5,7-DHT(a serotonin-depleting agent) was bilaterally injected into the BLC. Desipramine (a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) was systemically administered to prevent non-selective effects on norepinephrine. After 5days, 5-7-DHT-treated rats showed increases in the duration of social interaction (SI) time, suggestive of reduced anxiety-like behavior. We then used a cue-induced fear conditioning protocol with shock as the unconditioned stimulus and tone as the conditioned stimulus for rats pretreated with bilateral 5,7-DHT, or vehicle, injections into the BLC. Compared to vehicle-treated rats, 5,7-DHT rats had reduced acquisition of fear during conditioning (measured by freezing time during tone), also had reduced fear retrieval/recall on subsequent testing days. Ex vivo analyses revealed that 5,7-DHT reduced local 5-HT concentrations in the BLC by ~40% without altering local norepinephrine or dopamine concentrations. These data provide additional support for 5-HT playing a critical role in modulating anxiety-like behavior and fear-associated memories through its actions within the BLC.

Keywords: 5,7-dht; 5-ht; Amygdala; Anxiety; Dorsal raphe; Fear; Sert.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 5,7-Dihydroxytryptamine / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Amygdala / drug effects
  • Amygdala / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / drug therapy*
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Conditioning, Psychological / drug effects*
  • Cues
  • Desipramine / pharmacology
  • Electroshock
  • Fear / drug effects*
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Microinjections
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Serotonin Agents / pharmacology
  • Serotonin Antagonists / pharmacology*


  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Serotonin Agents
  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • 5,7-Dihydroxytryptamine
  • Serotonin
  • Desipramine