Dopamine and fear memory formation in the human amygdala

Andreas Frick, Johannes Björkstrand, Mark Lubberink, Allison Eriksson, Mats Fredrikson, Fredrik Åhs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Learning which environmental cues that predict danger is crucial for survival and accomplished through Pavlovian fear conditioning. In humans and rodents alike, fear conditioning is amygdala-dependent and rests on similar neurocircuitry. Rodent studies have implicated a causative role for dopamine in the amygdala during fear memory formation, but the role of dopamine in aversive learning in humans is unclear. Here, we show dopamine release in the amygdala and striatum during fear learning in humans. Using simultaneous positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging, we demonstrate that the amount of dopamine release is linked to strength of conditioned fear responses and linearly coupled to learning-induced activity in the amygdala. Thus, like in rodents, formation of amygdala-dependent fear memories in humans seems to be facilitated by endogenous dopamine release, supporting an evolutionary conserved neurochemical mechanism for aversive memory formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1704-1711
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number3
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Psychology
  • Neurosciences


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