Defensive responses elicited by sensory experiences are critical for survival. Mice acquire a conditioned fear response rapidly to an auditory cue but slowly to a visual cue, a difference in learned behavior that is likely to be mediated by direct projections to the lateral amygdala from the auditory thalamus but mainly indirect ones from the visual thalamus. Here, we show that acquisition of visually cued conditioned fear is accelerated in 'rewired' mice that have retinal projections routed to the auditory thalamus. Visual stimuli induce expression of the immediate early gene Fos (also known as c-fos)) in the auditory thalamus and the lateral amygdala in rewired mice, similar to the way auditory stimuli do in control mice. Thus, the rewired auditory pathway conveys visual information and mediates rapid activity-dependent plasticity in central structures that influence learned behavior.
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