The effects of basolateral amygdala lesions on unblocking

Stephen E. Chang, Michael A. McDannald, Daniel S. Wheeler, Peter C. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Prior reinforcement of a neutral stimulus often blocks subsequent conditioning of a new stimulus if a compound of the original and new cues is paired with the same reinforcer. However, if the value of the reinforcer is altered when the compound is presented, the new cue typically acquires conditioning, a result called unblocking. Blocking, unblocking, and related phenomena have been attributed to variations in processing of either the reinforcer, for example, the Rescorla-Wagner (1972) model, or cues, for example, the Pearce-Hall (1980) model. Here, we examined the effects of lesions of the basolateral amygdala on the occurrence of unblocking when the food reinforcer was increased in quantity at the time of introduction of the new cue. The lesions had no effects on unblocking in a simple design (Experiment 1), which did not distinguish between unblocking produced by variations in reward or cue processing. However, in a procedure that distinguished between unblocking due to direct conditioning by the added reinforcer, consistent with the Rescorla-Wagner (1972) model, and that due to increases in conditioning to the original reinforcer, consistent with the Pearce-Hall (1980) and other models of learning, the lesions prevented unblocking of the latter type. These results were discussed in the context of roles of the basolateral amygdala in coding and using reward prediction error information in associative learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-289
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Amygdala
  • Associability
  • Pearce-Hall model
  • Rescorla-Wagner model
  • Unblocking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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