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Brain Res Bull. 2006 Dec 11;71(1-3):174-82. Epub 2006 Sep 25.

Exposure to high- and low-light conditions in an open-field test of anxiety increases c-Fos expression in specific subdivisions of the rat basolateral amygdaloid complex.

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1
Henry Wellcome Laboratories for Integrative Neuroscience and Endocrinology, University of Bristol, Whitson Street, Bristol, BS1 3NY, United Kingdom. m.hale@bristol.ac.uk

Abstract

Anxiety states and anxiety-related behaviors appear to be regulated by a distributed and highly interconnected system of forebrain structures including the basolateral amygdaloid complex (basolateral amygdala). Despite a wealth of research examining the role of the basolateral amygdala in anxiety-related behaviors and anxiety states, the specific subdivisions of the basolateral amygdala that are involved in responses to anxiogenic stimuli have not been examined. In this study, we investigated the effects of exposure to a novel open-field environment, with either low- or high-levels of illumination, on expression of the protein product of the immediate-early gene c-Fos in subdivisions of the rat basolateral amygdala. The subdivisions studied included the lateral, ventrolateral and ventromedial parts of the lateral amygdaloid nucleus, the anterior, posterior and ventral parts of the basolateral amygdaloid nucleus and the anterior and posterior part of the basomedial amygdaloid nucleus. Small increases in the number of c-Fos-immunoreactive cells were observed in several, but not all, of the subdivisions of the basolateral amygdala studied following exposure of rats to either the high- or low-light conditions, compared to home cage or handled control groups. Open-field exposure in both the high- and low-light conditions resulted in a marked increase in c-Fos expression in the anterior part of the basolateral amygdaloid nucleus compared to either home cage or handled control groups. These findings point toward anatomical and functional heterogeneity within the basolateral amygdaloid complex and an important role of the anterior part of the basolateral amygdaloid nucleus in the neural mechanisms underlying physiological or behavioral responses to this anxiety-related stimulus.

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