The Intrinsic Organization of the Central Extended Amygdala


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ABSTRACT: The central component of the extended amygdala (CEA) comprises the central amygdaloid nucleus (Ce), the dorsal substantia innominata (SI), and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). Anatomical studies have suggested the presence of an intrinsic system of GABAergic neurons that not only connects homologous subareas of the Ce, SI, and BNST but that also acts as an interface between sensory afferents and brain stem-projecting neurons. CEA outputs, with a few exceptions, arise from separate populations of neurons, but all, including GABAergic neurons themselves, are heavily innervated by GABAergic terminals. GABAergic neurons may serve to integrate output activity of the CEA, though GABAergic neurons form a heterogeneous population whose differential intrinsic connections appear related to their peptide content. Afferents from the dysgranular insular cortex and lateral parabrachial complex preferentially innervate GABAergic neurons, suggesting these neurons may also integrate afferent activity. Afferents from the basolateral amygdala (BL) appear to innervate both output neurons and intrinsic GABAergic neurons. Evidence will be presented to show that BL afferents form synaptic complexes with cortical, GABAergic, and TH-immunoreactive terminal boutons on GABAergic dendritic spines. These complexes may be a key element in control of CEA output activity.