Fear conditioning is associated with dynamic directed functional interactions between and within the human amygdala, hippocampus, and frontal lobe

C. C. Liu, Nathan E Crone, P. J. Franaszczuk, D. T. Cheng, David Schretlen, Frederick Lenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The current model of fear conditioning suggests that it is mediated through modules involving the amygdala (AMY), hippocampus (HIP), and frontal lobe (FL). We now test the hypothesis that habituation and acquisition stages of a fear conditioning protocol are characterized by different event-related causal interactions (ERCs) within and between these modules. The protocol used the painful cutaneous laser as the unconditioned stimulus and ERC was estimated by analysis of local field potentials recorded through electrodes implanted for investigation of epilepsy. During the prestimulus interval of the habituation stage FL>AMY ERC interactions were common. For comparison, in the poststimulus interval of the habituation stage, only a subdivision of the FL (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, dlPFC) still exerted the FL>AMY ERC interaction (dlFC>AMY). For a further comparison, during the poststimulus interval of the acquisition stage, the dlPFC>AMY interaction persisted and an AMY>FL interaction appeared. In addition to these ERC interactions between modules, the results also show ERC interactions within modules. During the poststimulus interval, HIP>HIP ERC interactions were more common during acquisition, and deep hippocampal contacts exerted causal interactions on superficial contacts, possibly explained by connectivity between the perihippocampal gyrus and the HIP. During the prestimulus interval of the habituation stage, AMY>AMY ERC interactions were commonly found, while interactions between the deep and superficial AMY (indirect pathway) were independent of intervals and stages. These results suggest that the network subserving fear includes distributed or widespread modules, some of which are themselves "local networks." ERC interactions between and within modules can be either static or change dynamically across intervals or stages of fear conditioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-369
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Aug 25 2011



  • Fear
  • Human
  • Laser
  • Local field potentials
  • Network
  • Pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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