Conditioned taste aversion (CTA) is a learning paradigm in which an animal avoids a taste (conditioned stimulus) previously associated with visceral toxic effects [or unconditioned stimulus (US)]. Although many studies have implicated glutamate-mediated neurotransmission in memory consolidation of different types of learning tasks, including CTA, the exact role of this neurotransmitter system in memory formation is not known. Thus, we set out to determine whether glutamate mediates signaling of the US in CTA. We present evidence obtained by in vivo microdialysis that the US (i.p. injection of lithium chloride) induced a dramatic increase in glutamate release in the amygdala and a modest but significant release in the insular cortex. Moreover, CTA can be elicited by intra-amygdalar microinjections of glutamate; consequently, when glutamate is administered just before the presentation of a weak US, a clear CTA is induced. In contrast, the injection of glutamate alone or glutamate 2 h after the suboptimal US did not have any effect on the acquisition of CTA. These results indicate that glutamate activation of the amygdala can partially substitute the US in CTA, thus providing a clear indication that the amygdala conveys visceral information for this kind of memory
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