Transitions in infant learning are modulated by dopamine in the amygdala


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.

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Figure 1: Role of shock on corticosterone and behavior.
Figure 2: Dopamine efflux and manipulation.

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We thank L. Levita and the anonymous reviewers for helpful criticisms. This work was supported by grants NIH-NICHD-HD33402, NSF-IOB-0544406, NIH-NIDCD-DC009910 and the Leon Levy Foundation to R.M.S. and NIH-NIDA DA00325 and NIH-NIMH MH080603 to G.A.B.

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G.A.B. helped conceptualize and design the project, designed the microarray experiments, helped analyze the array and PCR data, and wrote the manuscript. S.M. helped conduct the behavioral, pharmacological studies, analyzed the data, and contributed to writing the manuscript. K.S. conducted the high-performance liquid chromatography studies. K.M. helped collect data for many of the experiments. P.G. analyzed the microarray and PCR data. S.W. conducted the microarray and PCR studies and carried out preliminary data analysis. R.M.S. helped conceptualize and design the project, supervised the behavioral, pharmacological, and dialysis studies, and helped write the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Gordon A Barr or Regina M Sullivan.

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Supplementary Figures 1–4, Supplementary Tables 1–6 and Supplementary Methods (PDF 1162 kb)

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Barr, G., Moriceau, S., Shionoya, K. et al. Transitions in infant learning are modulated by dopamine in the amygdala. Nat Neurosci 12, 1367–1369 (2009).

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