Send to

Choose Destination
Brain Struct Funct. 2008 Sep;213(1-2):29-42. doi: 10.1007/s00429-008-0183-3. Epub 2008 Jun 5.

Role of the extended amygdala in short-duration versus sustained fear: a tribute to Dr. Lennart Heimer.

Author information

Yerkes National Primate Center and the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Emory University, 954 Gatewood Drive, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA.


The concept of the "extended amygdala", developed and explored by Lennart Heimer, Jose de Olmos, George Alheid, and their collaborators, has had an enormous impact on the field of neuroscience and on our own work. Measuring fear-potentiated startle test using conditioned stimuli that vary in length we suggest that the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) and the lateral division of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST(L)) are involved in short-term versus long-term fear responses we call phasic versus sustained fear, respectively. Outputs from the basolateral amygdala (BLA) activate the medial division of the CeA (CeA(M)) to very rapidly elicit phasic fear responses via CeA(M) projections to the hypothalamus and brainstem. The BLA also projects to the BNST(L), which together with other BNST(L) inputs from the lateral CeA (CeA(L)) initiate a slower developing, but sustained fear response, akin to anxiety. We hypothesize this occurs because the CeA(L) releases the peptide corticotropin releasing hormone (CRF) into the BNST(L) which facilitates the release of glutamate from BLA terminals. This activates the BNST(L) which projects to hypothalamic and brainstem areas similar to those innervated by the CeA(M) that mediate the specific signs of fear and anxiety. The generality of this idea is illustrated by selective studies looking at context conditioning, social defeat, drug withdrawal and stress induced reinstatement.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center