The amygdala is known to be a critical brain region for emotional fear. It is believed that synaptic plasticity within the amygdala is the cellular basis of fear memory. Recent studies demonstrate that cortical areas such as the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) may also contribute to the formation of fear memory, including trace fear memory and remote fear memory. At synaptic level, fear conditioning also triggers plastic changes within the cortical areas immediately after the condition. These results raise the possibility that certain forms of synaptic plasticity may occur within the cortex while synaptic potentiation takes place within synapses in the hippocampus and amygdala. This hypothesis is supported by electrophysiological evidence obtained from freely moving animals that neurons in the hippocampus/amygdala fire synchronous activities with cortical neurons during the learning. To study fear-related synaptic plasticity in the cortex and its functional connectivity with neurons in the amygdala and hippocampus will help us understand brain mechanisms of fear and improve clinical treatment of emotional disorders in patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology