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Neuroscience. 2002;115(4):1261-79.

Pathways for emotion: interactions of prefrontal and anterior temporal pathways in the amygdala of the rhesus monkey.

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Department of Health Sciences, Boston University, 635 Commonwealth Avenue, Room 431, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


The amygdala has been implicated in processing information about the emotional significance of the environment and in the expression of emotions, through robust pathways with prefrontal, anterior temporal areas, and central autonomic structures. We investigated the anatomic organization and intersection of these pathways in the amygdala in rhesus monkeys with the aid of bidirectional, retrograde and anterograde tracers. Connections of the amygdala with orbitofrontal and medial prefrontal areas were robust and bidirectional, whereas connections with lateral prefrontal areas were sparse, unidirectional and ascending. Orbitofrontal axons terminated densely in a narrow band around the borders of the magnocellular basolateral nucleus, surrounded by projection neurons along a continuum through the nuclei of the basal complex. In contrast, the input and output zones of medial prefrontal areas were intermingled in the amygdala. Moreover, medial prefrontal axonal terminations were expansive, spreading into the parvicellular basolateral nucleus, which is robustly connected with hypothalamic autonomic structures, suggesting that they may influence the expressive emotional system of the amygdala. On the other hand, orbitofrontal axons heavily targeted the intercalated masses, which issue inhibitory projections to the central nucleus, at least in rats and cats. The central nucleus, in turn, issues a significant inhibitory projection to hypothalamic and brainstem autonomic structures. This evidence suggests that orbitofrontal areas exercise control on the internal processing of the amygdala. In addition, the results provided direct evidence that the connections of anterior temporal visual and auditory association cortices occupy overlapping territories with the orbitofrontal cortices particularly in the posterior half of the amygdala, and specifically within the intermediate sector of the basolateral nucleus and in the magnocellular part of the basomedial nucleus (also known as accessory basal), suggesting a closely linked triadic network. This intricate network may be recruited in cognitive tasks that are inextricably linked with emotional associations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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