After fear conditioning, plastic changes of excitatory synaptic transmission occur in the amygdala. Fear-related memory also involves the GABAergic system, although no influence on inhibitory synaptic transmission is known. In the present study we assessed the influence of Pavlovian fear conditioning on the plasticity of GABAergic synaptic interactions in the lateral amygdala (LA) in brain slices prepared from fear-conditioned, pseudo-trained and naïve adult mice. Theta-burst tetanization of thalamic afferent inputs to the LA evoked an input-specific potentiation of inhibitory postsynaptic responses in projection neurons; the cortical input was unaffected. Philanthotoxin (10 microM), an antagonist of Ca2+-permeable AMPA receptors, disabled this plastic phenomenon. Surgical isolation of the LA, extracellular application of a GABA(B) receptor antagonist (CGP 55845A, 10 microM) or an NMDA receptor antagonist (APV, 50 microM), or intracellular application of BAPTA (10 mM), did not influence the plasticity. The plasticity also showed as a potentiation of monosynaptic excitatory responses in putative GABAergic interneurons. Pavlovian fear conditioning, but not pseudo-conditioning, resulted in a significant reduction in this potentiation that was evident 24 h after training. Two weeks after training, the potentiation returned to control levels. In conclusion, a reduction in potentiation of inhibitory synaptic interactions occurs in the LA and may contribute to a shift in synaptic balance towards excitatory signal flow during the processes of fear-memory acquisition or consolidation.
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