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Neuroscience. 2011 Mar 17;177:93-113. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.12.063. Epub 2011 Jan 4.

Amygdala connections with jaw, tongue and laryngo-pharyngeal premotor neurons.

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Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Roy J. and Lucille Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


As the central nucleus (CE) is the only amygdaloid nucleus to send axons to the pons and medulla, it is thought to be involved in the expression of conditioned responses by accessing hindbrain circuitry generating stereotypic responses to aversive stimuli. Responses to aversive oral stimuli include gaping and tongue protrusion generated by central pattern generators and other premotor neurons in the ponto-medullary reticular formation. We investigated central nucleus connections with the reticular formation by identifying premotor reticular formation neurons through the retrograde trans-synaptic transport of pseudorabies virus (PRV) inoculated into masseter, genioglossus, thyroarytenoid or inferior constrictor muscles in combination with anterograde labeling of CE axons with biotinylated dextran amine. Three dimensional mapping of PRV infected premotor neurons revealed specific clusters of these neurons associated with different oro-laryngo-pharyngeal muscles, particularly in the parvicellular reticular formation. CE axon terminals were concentrated in certain parvicellular clusters but overall putative contacts were identified with premotor neurons associated with all four oro-laryngo-pharyngeal muscles investigated. We also mapped the retrograde trans-synaptic spread of PRV through the various nuclei of the amygdaloid complex. Medial CE was the first amygdala structure infected (4 days post-inoculation) with trans-synaptic spread to the lateral CE and the caudomedial parvicellular basolateral nucleus by day 5 post-inoculation. Infected neurons were only very rarely found in the lateral capsular CE and the lateral nucleus and then at only the latest time points. The data demonstrate that the CE is directly connected with clusters of reticular premotor neurons that may represent complex pattern generators and/or switching elements for the generation of stereotypic oral and laryngo-pharyngeal movements during aversive oral stimulation. Serial connections through the amygdaloid complex linked with the oro-laryngo-pharyngeal musculature appear quite distinct from those believed to sub-serve fear responses, suggesting there are distinct "channels" for the acquisition and expression of particular conditioned behaviors.

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