Brief Communication abstract

Nature Neuroscience 12, 1367 - 1369 (2009)
Published online: 27 September 2009 | doi:10.1038/nn.2403

Transitions in infant learning are modulated by dopamine in the amygdala

Gordon A Barr1,2, Stephanie Moriceau3,4,5, Kiseko Shionoya3, Kyle Muzny3, Puhong Gao2, Shaoning Wang1,2 & Regina M Sullivan3,4,5


Behavioral transitions characterize development. Young infant rats paradoxically prefer odors that are paired with shock, but older pups learn aversions. This transition is amygdala and corticosterone dependent. Using microarrays and microdialysis, we found downregulated dopaminergic presynaptic function in the amygdala with preference learning. Corticosterone-injected 8-d-old pups and untreated 12-d-old pups learned aversions and had dopaminergic upregulation in the amygdala. Dopamine injection into the amygdala changed preferences to aversions, whereas dopamine antagonism reinstated preference learning.

  1. Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
  2. Department of Developmental Neuroscience, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York, USA.
  3. Department of Zoology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA.
  4. Emotional Brain Institute, Nathan Kline Institute, Orangeburg, New York, USA.
  5. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, New York, USA.

Correspondence to: Gordon A Barr1,2 e-mail:

Correspondence to: Regina M Sullivan3,4,5 e-mail:


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