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Distribution of dopamine transporter immunoreactive fibers in the human amygdaloid complex



The nuclei of the human amygdaloid complex can be distinguished from each other on the basis of their cytoarchitecture, chemistry and connections, all of which process the information needed for the different functions (ranging from attention to memory and emotion) of the amygdala. This complex receives dopaminergic input that exerts modulatory effects over its intrinsic network and is critical for reward-related learning and fear conditioning. To determine the specific distribution of the dopaminergic input through the different nuclei and nuclear subdivisions of this structure we used stereological tools to quantify the fibers containing the dopamine transporter (used to signal the dopaminergic phenotype) in post-mortem samples from control individuals. Dopaminergic axons targeted every nucleus of the amygdaloid complex, and the density of dopamine transporter-containing axons varied considerably among its nuclear groups. The central group showed the greatest density of dopamine transporter-positive fibers, more than double the density of the basolateral group, the second most densely innervated structure. The dopamine transporter-positive innervation is very scant in the corticomedial group. The density of dopamine transporter-positive fibers did not vary among the nuclei of the basolateral group – i.e. basal, lateral and accessory basal nuclei – although there were significant density gradients among the subdivisions of these nuclei. These detailed quantitative data on dopamine transporter-positive innervation in the human amygdaloid complex can offer a useful reference in future studies aimed at analysing putative dysfunctions of this system in diseases involving brain dopamine, such as certain anxiety disorders, Parkinson′s disease and schizophrenia.