Amygdala priming results in conditioned place avoidance

Shelley K. Thielen, Anantha Shekhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Priming involves daily stimulation of the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA) for 5 days using a dose of the GABAA receptor antagonist, bicuculline methiodide (BMI), that is subthreshold to generate anxiogenic-like responses. The coordinated physiological and behavioral response of the primed rat is similar to the symptoms of human panic disorder and has been used as a model to study panic attacks. If the priming procedure is indeed similar to human panic disorder, then the context in which priming occurs should become associated with aversive conditioning and avoidance as seen in secondary agoraphobia following panic attacks in humans. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to further characterize the behavioral response of priming using the conditioned place avoidance (CPA) task that utilizes distinct tactile cues of a grid floor (Grid+) or hole floor (Grid-). Male Wistar rats (275-300 g) were implanted bilaterally with guide cannulae positioned 1 mm above the BLA. Grid+ animals were placed in the conditioning chamber containing grid floors immediately after a 6-pmol (in 250 nl) BMI injection into the BLA and on hole floors following a sham (250 nl vehicle) injection. Grid animals were placed in the chamber containing hole floors after the BMI injection and on grid floors following the sham injection. Animals were placed in the chamber for 20 min following each injection and injections were separated by 4 h. After 5 days of this treatment, the animals were primed. Two days later, during avoidance testing, each animal was placed in the chamber containing both floors for 30 min. Priming with daily 6-pmol BMI injections into the BLA results in CPA or an aversion to the floor paired with the BMI injection. These results suggest that priming may result in phobic-like responses, similar to the avoidance behavior exhibited by panic disorder patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-406
Number of pages6
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 12 2002


  • Agoraphobia
  • Anxiety
  • Conditioned fear
  • GABA
  • Learning
  • Panic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology

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