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Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2005 May-Jun;32(5-6):450-6.

Role of the central nucleus of the amygdala in the control of blood pressure: descending pathways to medullary cardiovascular nuclei.

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Academic Unit of Cardiovascular Research, School of Medicine, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.


1. One of the key areas that links psychologically induced stress with the blood pressure-regulatory system is the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA). This is an integratory forebrain nucleus that receives input from higher centres in the forebrain and has extensive connections with the hypothalamus and the medulla oblongata, areas involved in the regulation of the cardiovascular reflexes. 2. Based on studies using electrical or chemical stimulation or electrolytic lesions of the CeA, it has become clear that the CeA plays an important role in the regulation of blood pressure in response to stressful or fearful stimuli. 3. Two important medullary areas known to receive projections from the CeA are the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) and the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM). The NTS is the site of the first synapse for afferent fibres originating from baroreceptors, chemoreceptors and the heart, whereas the RVLM contains neurons that maintain resting blood pressure and sympathetic nerve activity via projections to sympathetic preganglionic neurons in the intermediolateral cell column of the thoracolumbar spinal cord. 4. Electron microscopic studies using combined anterograde tracing and pre- and post-embedding immunogold labelling have shown that the pathways originating from the CeA to the NTS are inhibitory and may use GABA as a neurotransmitter. The results of these studies suggest that blood pressure changes produced by activation of the CeA may be mediated by attenuation of baroreceptor reflexes through a GABAergic mechanism at the level of the NTS. 5. Neuronal tract tracing combined with neurofunctional studies using the Fos protein as a marker of activated neurons indicate that the CeA projects directly to baroreceptive neurons in the NTS and RVLM that are activated by changes in blood pressure. 6. In conclusion, studies that have examined the efferent pathways of the CeA suggest that CeA neurons with projections to medullary baroreceptive neurons may play a vital role in the reflex changes in sympathetic nerve activity that are involved in blood pressure regulation in response to stress or anxiety.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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