The central amygdala nucleus (CeA) plays a critical role in cognitive processes beyond fear conditioning. For example, intact CeA function is essential for enhancing attention to conditioned stimuli (CSs). Furthermore, this enhanced attention depends on the CeA's connections to the nigrostriatal system. In the current study, we examined the role of the CeA's connections to two midbrain dopamine regions, the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA), in processing CS information when predictions of reward or nonreward were confirmed or disconfirmed. Initially, two different retrograde tracers were injected into the SNc and the VTA of rats, to label CeA cells. Different groups of rats then received a visual CS either paired or unpaired with food. Finally, Fos induction was assessed after a test session in which rats were exposed to the visual CS alone or paired with food. Colabeling of Fos and the retrograde tracer(s) showed that CeA neurons projecting to the SNc, but not to the VTA, were engaged in processing CS information when the training and testing conditions differed. These results suggest that the CeA-nigral pathway represents prediction error information during appetitive conditioning.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience