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The amygdala: vigilance and emotion

Abstract

Here we provide a review of the animal and human literature concerning the role of the amygdala in fear conditioning, considering its potential influence over autonomic and hormonal changes, motor behavior and attentional processes. A stimulus that predicts an aversive outcome will change neural transmission in the amygdala to produce the somatic, autonomic and endocrine signs of fear, as well as increased attention to that stimulus. It is now clear that the amygdala is also involved in learning about positively valenced stimuli as well as spatial and motor learning and this review strives to integrate this additional information. A review of available studies examining the human amygdala covers both lesion and electrical stimulation studies as well as the most recent functional neuroimaging studies. Where appropriate, we attempt to integrate basic information on normal amygdala function with our current understanding of psychiatric disorders, including pathological anxiety.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by NIH Grants MH 47840, MH 57250, MH 58922, MH 52384, MH 59906 and the Woodruff Foundation to MD and NIH Grant MH 01866 and a National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) Young Investigator Award to PJW. Special thanks are given to Dr Changjun Shi who prepared Figure 3 based on his own work.

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Davis, M., Whalen, P. The amygdala: vigilance and emotion. Mol Psychiatry 6, 13–34 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.mp.4000812

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Keywords

  • fear
  • anxiety
  • conditioning
  • amygdala
  • bed nucleus stria terminalis
  • lesions
  • functional neuroimaging
  • basolateral nucleus
  • central nucleus
  • animal
  • human

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