Neuromodulation in circuits of aversive emotional learning

Nat Neurosci. 2019 Oct;22(10):1586-1597. doi: 10.1038/s41593-019-0503-3. Epub 2019 Sep 24.


Emotional learning and memory are functionally and dysfunctionally regulated by the neuromodulatory state of the brain. While the role of excitatory and inhibitory neural circuits mediating emotional learning and its control have been the focus of much research, we are only now beginning to understand the more diffuse role of neuromodulation in these processes. Recent experimental studies of the acetylcholine, noradrenaline and dopamine systems in fear learning and extinction of fear responding provide surprising answers to key questions in neuromodulation. One area of research has revealed how modular organization, coupled with context-dependent coding modes, allows for flexible brain-wide or targeted neuromodulation. Other work has shown how these neuromodulators act in downstream targets to enhance signal-to-noise ratios and gain, as well as to bind distributed circuits through neuronal oscillations. These studies elucidate how different neuromodulatory systems regulate aversive emotional processing and reveal fundamental principles of neuromodulatory function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology
  • Fear / psychology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology


  • Neurotransmitter Agents