Neural plasticity in the amygdala is necessary for the acquisition and storage of memory in Pavlovian fear conditioning, but most neuroimaging studies have focused only on stimulus-evoked responses during the conditioning session. This study examined changes in the resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) of the amygdala before and after Pavlovian fear conditioning, an emotional learning task. Behavioral results from the conditioning session revealed that participants learned normally and fMRI data recorded during learning identified a number of stimulus-evoked changes that were consistent with previous work. A direct comparison between the pre- and post-conditioning amygdala connectivity revealed a region of dorsal prefrontal cortex (PFC) in the superior frontal gyrus that showed a significant increase in connectivity following the conditioning session. A behavioral measure of explicit memory performance was positively correlated with the change in amygdala connectivity within a neighboring region in the superior frontal gyrus. Additionally, an implicit autonomic measure of conditioning was positively correlated with the change in connectivity between the amygdala and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The resting-state data show that amygdala connectivity is altered following Pavlovian fear conditioning and that these changes are also related to behavioral outcomes. These alterations may reflect the operation of a consolidation process that strengthens neural connections to support memory after the learning event.
Keywords: amygdala, fear conditioning, fMRI, resting-state, functional connectivity
Citation: Schultz DH, Balderston NL and Helmstetter FJ (2012) Resting-state connectivity of the amygdala is altered following Pavlovian fear conditioning. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 6:242. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00242
Received: 26 June 2012; Paper pending published: 12 July 2012;
Accepted: 02 August 2012; Published online: 23 August 2012.
Edited by:Shuhei Yamaguchi, Shimane University, Japan
Copyright © 2012 Schultz, Balderston and Helmstetter. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.
*Correspondence: Fred J. Helmstetter, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, PO Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53211, USA. e-mail: email@example.com