Amygdala inactivation reverses fear's ability to impair divided attention and make time stand still.
The cognitive and emotional effects of amygdala or frontal cortex lesions were compared in rats trained to time both a 50-s visual signal paired with food and an embedded 10- or 20-s auditory signal that was paired with either appetitive (food) or aversive (footshock) outcomes. When both auditory and visual signals were paired with food, control and amygdalar-lesioned rats were able to divide attention and to time both signals simultaneously, whereas when the embedded auditory signal was paired with footshock, control rats were impaired in their ability to divide attention and were able to time only one signal at a time. In contrast, amygdalar inactivation blocked this fear-related impairment and allowed rats to time both signals simultaneously, whereas rats with frontal cortex lesions demonstrated sequential processing under all conditions. These results support the proposal that the frontal cortex exerts executive control over the allocation of attentional resources, but that under stressful conditions the amygdala is crucial for the emergence of fear-evoked increments in selective attention leading to deficits in the ability to time 2 or more signals simultaneously.
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