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Abstract

A major hypothesis about lateral/basolateral amygdala complex (BLC) function in memory proposes that the BLC is the site where conditioned stimulus–unconditioned stimulus (CS–US) associations are formed and permanently stored during Pavlovian ‘fear conditioning.’ Thus, according to this hypothesis, the BLC is necessary for the acquisition and expression of both discrete-cue and contextual Pavlovian fear conditioning. This hypothesis clearly requires that animals with complete lesions of the BLC be completely unable to acquire Pavlovian fear conditioning. In this experiment, distribution of training and testing trials over three sessions revealed that rats with complete BLC lesions rapidly acquired a contextual CS–US association (as assessed with freezing behaviour), although their performance, as expected, did not equal that of sham operated controls. Irrespective of the nature of the freezing deficit relative to controls, the learning in the BLC-lesioned rats strongly indicates that Pavlovian fear conditioning CS–US associations can be rapidly acquired in the absence of the BLC, and that the BLC cannot therefore be necessary for their acquisition.