CORDIS - EU research results

Amygdala Circuits for Appetitive Conditioning

Project description

Study of defined neuronal circuits of appetitive learning

The capacity to learn from experience is an essential brain function, which increases an animal’s fitness, enabling rapid, adaptive behavioural changes. Most studies of the underlying mechanisms focussed on the neuronal circuits of aversive learning, as in Pavlovian fear conditioning. The ERC-funded Amygdala Circuits project will focus on investigating how activity in defined neuronal circuits mediates appetitive learning and the crosstalk of these circuitries with the aversive learning circuits. Using mouse models and a multidisciplinary approach, combining behavioural, electrophysiological, imaging, optogenetic, and viral circuit tracing techniques, the project will study the neuronal circuitry of appetitive conditioning. The main focus will be on the amygdala, involved in both aversive and appetitive learning.


The project outlined here addresses the fundamental question how the brain encodes and controls behavior. While we have a reasonable understanding of the role of entire brain areas in such processes, and of mechanisms at the molecular and synaptic levels, there is a big gap in our knowledge of how behavior is controlled at the level of defined neuronal circuits.

In natural environments, chances for survival depend on learning about possible aversive and appetitive outcomes and on the appropriate behavioral responses. Most studies addressing the underlying mechanisms at the level of neuronal circuits have focused on aversive learning, such as in Pavlovian fear conditioning. Understanding how activity in defined neuronal circuits mediates appetitive learning, as well as how these circuitries are shared and interact with aversive learning circuits, is a central question in the neuroscience of learning and memory and the focus of this grant application.

Using a multidisciplinary approach in mice, combining behavioral, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiological, imaging, optogenetic and state-of-the-art viral circuit tracing techniques, we aim at dissecting the neuronal circuitry of appetitive Pavlovian conditioning with a focus on the amygdala, a key brain region important for both aversive and appetitive learning. Ultimately, elucidating these mechanisms at the level of defined neurons and circuits is fundamental not only for an understanding of memory processes in the brain in general, but also to inform a mechanistic approach to psychiatric conditions associated with amygdala dysfunction and dysregulated emotional responses including anxiety and mood disorders.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 2 497 200,00
4058 Basel

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Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera Nordwestschweiz Basel-Stadt
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 2 497 200,00

Beneficiaries (1)