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Keywords:

  • amygdala;
  • LTD;
  • LTP;
  • rat;
  • vmPFC

Abstract

We have previously shown that high-frequency stimulation to the basolateral amygdala (BLA) induces long-term potentiation (LTP) in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and that prior exposure to inescapable stress inhibits the induction of LTP in this pathway [Maroun & Richter-Levin (2003)J. Neurosci., 23, 4406–4409]. Here, we show that the reciprocal pathway projecting from the vmPFC to the BLA is resistant to the induction of LTP. Conversely, long-term depression (LTD) is robustly induced in the BLA in response to low-frequency stimulation to the vmPFC. Furthermore, prior exposure to inescapable stress reverses plasticity in this pathway, resulting in the promotion of LTP and the inhibition of LTD. Our findings suggest that, under normal and safe conditions, the vmPFC is unable to exert excitatory synaptic plasticity over the BLA; rather, LTD, which encodes memory of safety in the BLA, is favoured. Following stressful experiences, LTP in the BLA is promoted to encode memory of fear.