Nitric oxide signalling in the basolateral complex of the amygdala: an extension of NMDA receptor activation during Pavlovian fear conditioning and expression
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
N-methyl-D-asparate (NMDA) receptors located within the basolateral complex of the amygdala are required for the consolidation and expression of Pavlovian conditioned fear. The events downstream of receptor activation that mediate these processes are not well defined. An intermediate step that may be of significance is the synthesis of the gas nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is synthesised as a result of NMDA receptor activation and acts as an unconventional neurotransmitter freely diffusing across cell membranes interacting with its targets in a non-synaptic manner. The targets of NO include cellular components that play significant roles during the consolidation of conditioned fear and the neurotransmission associated with its expression. This implies that NO may be an important intermediary of NMDA receptor activation and both these processes. The current study sought to examine this possibility using fear potentiated startle to examine the expression of learned fear. Three experiments were conducted, fifty rats received intra-BSC microinfusions of the global nitric oxide synthase inhibitor L-NAME either prior to fear conditioning, fear testing, or examination of the shock sensitization of the acoustic startle affect. The results indicated that NO was indeed required for both the consolidation and expression of learned fear, whereas it was not required for shock enhanced startle responding. This study provides new information about the sub-cellular basis of conditioned fear, and highlights the pivotal role played by NO in processes associated with conditioned fear.