Opposite effects of tetanic stimulation of the auditory thalamus or auditory cortex on the acoustic startle reflex in awake rats

Authors

  • Juan Huang,

    1. Department of Psychology, Speech and Hearing Research Center, National Key Laboratory on Machine Perception, Peking University, Beijing, 100871, China
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  • Xihong Wu,

    1. Department of Psychology, Speech and Hearing Research Center, National Key Laboratory on Machine Perception, Peking University, Beijing, 100871, China
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  • John Yeomans,

    1. Departments of Psychology and Zoology, Centre for Research on Biological Communication Systems, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G3, Canada
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  • Liang Li

    1. Department of Psychology, Speech and Hearing Research Center, National Key Laboratory on Machine Perception, Peking University, Beijing, 100871, China
    2. Departments of Psychology and Zoology, Centre for Research on Biological Communication Systems, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G3, Canada
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Dr Liang Li, Department of Psychology, Peking University, Beijing, 100871, China.
E-mail: liangli@pku.edu.cn; liang@psych.utoronto.ca

Abstract

The amygdala mediates both emotional learning and fear potentiation of startle. The lateral amygdala nucleus (LA) receives auditory inputs from both the auditory thalamus (medial geniculate nucleus; MGN) and auditory association cortex (AAC), and is critical for auditory fear conditioning. The central amygdala nucleus, which has intra-amygdaloid connections with LA, enhances startle magnitude via midbrain connections to the startle circuits. Tetanic stimulation of either MGN or AAC in vitro or in vivo can induce long-term potentiation in LA. In the present study, behavioural consequences of tetanization of these auditory afferents were investigated in awake rats. The acoustic startle reflex of rats was enhanced by tetanic stimulation of MGN, but suppressed by that of AAC. All the tetanization-induced changes of startle diminished within 24 h. Blockade of GABAB receptors in the LA area reversed the suppressive effect of tetanic stimulation of AAC on startle but did not change the enhancing effect of tetanic stimulation of MGN. Moreover, transient electrical stimulation of MGN enhanced the acoustic startle reflex when it lagged behind acoustic stimulation, but inhibited the acoustic startle reflex when it preceded acoustic stimulation. The results of the present study indicate that MGN and AAC afferents to LA play different roles in emotional modulation of startle, and AAC afferents are more influenced by inhibitory GABAB transmission in LA.

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