The basolateral complex of the amygdala is necessary for acquisition but not expression of CS motivational value in appetitive Pavlovian second-order conditioning


: Dr Barry Setlow, as above.


The basolateral complex of the amygdala (ABL) is involved in processing information about stimulus motivational value. However, it is not clear whether the ABL is critical for acquisition, maintenance, or expression of this information. Our previous work has shown that ABL lesions made prior to training, block acquisition of an appetitive Pavlovian second-order conditioning task, in which performance is thought to depend on the acquisition of motivational (conditioned reinforcement) value by the first-order conditioned stimulus (CS). The present experiments examined the effects of ABL lesions made after first-order conditioning, when the CS acquires motivational value, but before second-order conditioning, the test for acquired value of that CS. Rats received pairings of a visual CS with a food reinforcer. They then received bilateral sham or excitotoxic lesions of the ABL. After recovery, they received pairings of a second-order auditory CS with the previously conditioned visual CS. In two experiments, both sham and lesioned rats acquired normal second-order conditioned behaviours. Some of the same rats were then given another round of second-order conditioning with novel CSs. In this case, when first-order training occurred after surgery, some second-order conditioned behaviours were impaired in lesioned rats. Tests of the associative underpinnings of second-order conditioned behaviours showed that those behaviours impaired by ABL lesions were based on stimulus–response associations. The results show that although the ABL is critical for second-order conditioning, this role is limited to acquisition of information about the motivational value of the first-order CS, and it is not critical for maintenance of this information or for its use in forming second-order associations.