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Keywords:

  • amygdala lateralisation;
  • chemical lesion;
  • fear conditioning;
  • olfactory peduncle;
  • social buffering

Abstract

In social animals, the presence of an affiliative conspecific alleviates acute stress responses, and this is termed social buffering. However, the neural mechanisms underlying social buffering have not been elucidated. We have reported that the main olfactory system mediates social buffering of conditioned fear responses in male rats, and this is accompanied by suppression of the lateral and central amygdala. Therefore, olfactory signals are probably transmitted from the main olfactory system to the amygdala. Because the lateral and central amygdala do not receive projections from the main olfactory bulb, the site that links the main olfactory bulb and amygdala was presumed to be located within the main olfactory system. To find the linkage site, we generated lesions within the main olfactory system, and found that a bilateral lesion in the posteromedial region of the olfactory peduncle (pmOP) blocked social buffering. Next, we determined that the pmOP receives direct projections from the main olfactory bulb. Finally, we demonstrated that the connection between the pmOP and ipsilateral amygdala is important for social buffering, and that the pmOP projects directly to the ipsilateral amygdala, including the lateral and central amygdala. On the basis of these results, we suggest that the pmOP links the main olfactory blub to the amygdala and enables social buffering of conditioned fear responses. These results provide the first comprehensive picture of the neural pathway underlying the social buffering phenomenon.