Empirical tests of the functional significance of amygdala-based modulation of hippocampal representations: evidence for multiple memory consolidation pathways


Dr R. J. McDonald, as above.
E-mail: r.mcdonald@uleth.ca


This series of experiments evaluated the effects of amygdala damage on the acquisition and long-term retention of variants of the water task, and tested the hypothesis that the amygdala is an essential neural system for consolidation of hippocampal memories. In Experiment 1, rats with large, neurotoxic lesions of the amygdala (AMYG) showed normal acquisition on the standard spatial version of the water task, as well as normal retention and decay rate profiles on the 24-h and 30-day retention probes. In Experiment 2, AMYG rats showed normal one-trial place learning abilities and could retain this one-trial information over a 24 h delay. Experiment 3 showed that the amygdala lesions used in this study were functionally significant because AMYG rats, from Experiment 2, showed impairments in a discriminative fear conditioning to context paradigm. Experiment 4 was a critical test of the idea that the amygdala is a decisive locus for consolidation of hippocampal memories. AMYG rats were trained to sub-asymptotic levels of performance on the standard version of the water task. Following each training session, the subjects were given a post-training peripheral injection of d-amphetamine. A probe test revealed that normal subjects and AMYG rats showed similar post-training memory improvement effects. Taken together, the results show that hippocampal memory consolidation processes do not require amygdala modulation. Arguments for an alternative view are presented suggesting that there are multiple memory consolidation pathways, one of which may depend on amygdala neural circuitry.