Neurotoxic lesions of basolateral, but not central, amygdala interfere with pavlovian second-order conditioning and reinforcer devaluation effects

Tammy Hatfield, Jung Soo Han, Michael Conley, Michela Gallagher, Peter Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Considerable evidence suggests that various discrete nuclei within the amygdala complex are critically involved in the assignment of emotional significance or value to events through associative learning. Much of this evidence comes from aversive conditioning procedures. For example, lesions of either basolateral amygdala (ABL) or the central nucleus (CN) interfere with the acquisition or expression of conditioned fear. The present study examined the effects of selective neurotoxic lesions of either ABL or CN on the acquisition of positive incentive value by a conditioned stimulus (CS) with two appetitive Pavlovian conditioning procedures. In second-order conditioning experiments, rats first received light-food pairings intended to endow the light with reinforcing power. The acquired reinforcing power of the light was then measured by examining its ability to serve as a reinforcer for second-order conditioning of a tone when tone-light pairings were given in the absence of food. Acquisition of second-order conditioning was impaired in rats with ABL lesions but not in rats with CN lesions. In reinforcer devaluation procedures, conditioned responding of rats with ABL lesions was insensitive to postconditioning changes in the value of the reinforcer, whereas rats with CN lesions, like normal rats, were able to spontaneously adjust their CRs to the current value of the reinforcer. The results of both test procedures indicate that ABL, but not CN, is part of a system involved in CSs' acquisition of positive incentive value. Together with evidence that identifies a role for CN in certain changes in attentional processing of CSs in conditioning, these results suggest that separate amygdala subsystems contribute to a variety of processes inherent in associative learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5256-5265
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 15 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • amygdala central nucleus
  • basolateral amygdala
  • classical conditioning
  • rats
  • reinforcer devaluation
  • second-order conditioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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