The Role of the Amygdala in Long Term Memory

The amygdala is well renowned for its role in memory, particularly during fear conditioning. During Pavlovian fear conditioning, the lateral amygdala receives input from both the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the unconditioned stimulus (US) and is thought to be the site of plasticity for the association between the CS and the US (Phelps, 2009). The amygdala also becomes active in humans during exposure to strong aversive odorants, suggesting that the amygdala makes use of the transduction of negative odorants in some way as to lead to the consolidation of fear memories, catalyzing the retention of experience surrounding the exposure (Zald; Pardo, 1997). The amygdala also responds to identify reward representations, working with the orbitofrontal cortex to help promote behavior that can result in rewards (Gottfried et al., 2003). The amygdala, therefore, seems pivotal in labeling the retention of past experiences with an emotional tag, supplying the organism with an emotional context in which to interpret the memory, and with any luck, an adaptive advantage.

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