The role of an amygdalo-nigrostriatal pathway in associative learning

Jung Soo Han, Robert W. McMahan, Peter Holland, Michela Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


The present study examined the role of an amygdalonigrostriatal pathway in associative learning. An asymmetrical lesion model was used to test whether a circuit from the amygdala central nucleus to the dorsolateral striatum, via the substantia nigra, is critical for mediating conditioned orienting responses. Rats with an asymmetrical lesion, consisting of neurotoxic removal of central nucleus neurons in one hemisphere and depletion of the dopamine innervation of the dorsolateral striatum in the contralateral hemisphere, failed to acquire conditioned orienting responses. In contrast, the asymmetrical lesion had no effect on spontaneous orienting or learning another response directed to the source of the food unconditioned stimulus in the same task. A second experiment tested the effect of reversible inactivation of the dorsolateral striatum contralateral to a neurotoxic central nucleus lesion on acquisition of the conditioned orienting response. Although inactivation did not affect spontaneous orienting, rats failed to acquire the conditioned orienting response during sessions in which inactivation occurred. Immediately after the inactivation procedure was terminated, however, a significant increase in orienting to the conditioned stimulus was evident. These data support the interpretation that the dorsolateral striatum provides a route for the expression of the conditioned orienting response but is not essential for acquisition of this learned behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3913-3919
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • amygdala
  • asymmetrical lesion
  • conditioned orienting behavior
  • ibotenic acid
  • learning and memory
  • lidocaine 6- OHDA
  • pavlovian conditioning
  • striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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