In classical fear conditioning the emotional impact of a stimulus is altered, that is, it is transformed into a conditioned stimulus capable of eliciting fear reactions after pairings with aversive unconditioned stimuli such as electric shocks. Numerous animal studies support a crucial role for the amygdala in the expression and acquisition of such associative fear memories (Davis & Whalen, 2001). Lesion and neuroimaging studies have indicated that the amygdala is involved in fear conditioning processes in humans as well (Davis & Whalen 2001). The amygdala may also participate in the formation of declarative memory for emotional events (e.g., Cahill et al., 1996). However, the exact role of the amygdala and its subnuclei in the formation and storage of emotional memory is debated and a matter of active research.
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