Synaptic transmission and plasticity in the amygdala. An emerging physiology of fear conditioning circuits

Mol Neurobiol. 1996 Aug;13(1):1-22. doi: 10.1007/BF02740749.


Numerous studies in both rats and humans indicate the importance of the amygdala in the acquisition and expression of learned fear. The identification of the amygdala as an essential neural substrate for fear conditioning has permitted neurophysiological examinations of synaptic processes in the amygdala that may mediate fear conditioning. One candidate cellular mechanism for fear conditioning is long-term potentiation (LTP), an enduring increase in synaptic transmission induced by high-frequency stimulation of excitatory afferents. At present, the mechanisms underlying the induction and expression of amygdaloid LTP are only beginning to be understood, and probably involve both the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate (AMPA) subclasses of glutamate receptors. This article will examine recent studies of synaptic transmission and plasticity in the amygdala in an effort to understand the relationships of these processes to aversive learning and memory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Memory / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • N-Methylaspartate / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Rats
  • Receptors, AMPA / physiology
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • N-Methylaspartate