L-type voltage-gated calcium channels mediate NMDA-independent associative long-term potentiation at thalamic input synapses to the amygdala

Marc G. Weisskopf, Elizabeth P. Bauer, Joseph Ledoux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Long-term potentiation (LTP) in the amygdala is a leading candidate mechanism to explain fear conditioning, a prominent model of emotional memory. LTP occurs in the pathway from the auditory thalamus to the lateral amygdala, and during fear conditioning LTP-like changes occur in the synapses of this pathway. Nevertheless, LTP has not been investigated in the thalamoamygdala pathway using in vitro recordings; hence little is known about the underlying mechanisms. We therefore examined thalamoamygdala LTP in vitro using visualized whole-cell patch recording. LTP at these synapses was dependent on postsynaptic calcium entry, similar to synaptic plasticity in other regions of the brain. However, unlike many forms of synaptic plasticity, thalamoamygdala LTP was independent of NMDA receptors, despite their presence at these synapses, and instead was dependent on L-type voltage-gated calcium channels. This was true when LTP was induced by pairing presynaptic activity with either action potentials or constant depolarization in the postsynaptic cell. In addition, the LTP was associative, in that it required concurrent pre- and postsynaptic activity, and it was synapse specific. Thus, although this LTP is different from that described at other synapses in the brain, it is nonetheless well suited to mediate classical fear conditioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10512-10519
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 1999



  • Amygdala
  • Calcium channels
  • Electrophysiology
  • Fear
  • In vitro
  • LTP
  • Synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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