The basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA) has been implicated in the modulation of learning after stress. Acute inescapable stress enhances classical eyeblink conditioning in male rats, whereas the same stressor impairs eyeblink conditioning in female rats. The experiments here directly assessed whether inactivation of the BLA during stress exposure would block both the stress-induced facilitation in males and the retardation of eyeblink conditioning in females. To this end, the BLA was temporarily inactivated by infusion of the GABA agonist muscimol before acute stressor exposure. All rats were trained in a different context 24 h later. Males infused with muscimol before the stressful event did not exhibit facilitated eyeblink conditioning, whereas those infused with the vehicle emitted more conditioned responses than unstressed males. Females infused with muscimol before stress did not express a deficit in conditioning, whereas those infused with vehicle and stressed emitted fewer conditioned responses than unstressed vehicle controls. These data demonstrate that neuronal activity within the BLA during stress exposure is necessary to modulate learning 24 h later in a new context. Thus, the BLA is necessary to induce the long-term effect of stressful experience on conditioning regardless of sex and direction of modulation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Basolateral amygdala
- Eyeblink conditioning
- Pavlovian conditioning
- Sex differences