The Role of the Amygdala and Other Forebrain Structures in the Immediate Fear Arousal Produced by Footshock Exposure
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
When a human or animal is threatened or confronted with a stimuli signalling danger, internal defence mechanisms are activated that evoke feelings of fear and anxiety. These emotional responses promote the behaviour patterns necessary for an organism's survival. Animal research seeks to understand how these emotions affect behaviour both physiologically and neurologically in order to develop effective treatment for those suffering from severe anxiety disorders. The aim of this thesis was to examine the role of the amygdala, and dorsal and ventral hippocampus in relation to immediate fear arousal brought on by footshock. This was assessed by examining whether muscimol would interfere with the acoustic startle response before or after footshock presentation, and then comparing these reactions to a control group that received saline infusions. The results of this research are extremely important because they identify various brain structures involved in the fear-arousing effects of footshock as measured by the shock sensitization of acoustic startle. Laboratory rats received muscimol (0.1ug and 0.01ug) infusions into the basolateral amygdala, dorsal and ventral hippocampus. These three brain regions have been identified as playing a prominent role in fear neurocircuitry. The results demonstrated that the GABA A receptor agonist muscimol in doses of 0.1ug and 0.01ug reliably blocked shock sensitization of the acoustic startle response. The muscimol doses did not alter the shock reactivity amplitudes therefore indicating a normal perception of the fear arousing properties of footshock. Therefore, the present study's results suggest that a decrease of GABA activity in the amygdala, dorsal and ventral hippocampus may be essential for the neuronal basis of fear acquisition and expression of unconditioned and conditioned stimuli.