Associative Pavlovian conditioning leads to an increase in spinophilin-immunoreactive dendritic spines in the lateral amygdala

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Changes in dendritic spine number and shape are believed to reflect structural plasticity consequent to learning. Previous studies have strongly suggested that the dorsal subnucleus of the lateral amygdala is an important site of physiological plasticity in Pavlovian fear conditioning. In the present study, we examined the effect of auditory fear conditioning on dendritic spine numbers in the dorsal subnucleus of the lateral amygdala using an immunolabelling procedure to visualize the spine-associated protein spinophilin. Associatively conditioned rats that received paired tone and shock presentations had 35% more total spinophilin-immunoreactive spines than animals that had unpaired stimulation, consistent with the idea that changes in the number of dendritic spines occur during learning and account in part for memory.

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