Send to

Choose Destination
Genes Brain Behav. 2016 Jan;15(1):125-43. doi: 10.1111/gbb.12255. Epub 2015 Oct 20.

Plasticity-related genes in brain development and amygdala-dependent learning.

Author information

Department of Neuroscience and Physiology, Neuroscience Institute, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.
Department of Otolaryngology, NYU Langone School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.
Program in Neurosciences & Mental Health, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Department of Physiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.


Learning about motivationally important stimuli involves plasticity in the amygdala, a temporal lobe structure. Amygdala-dependent learning involves a growing number of plasticity-related signaling pathways also implicated in brain development, suggesting that learning-related signaling in juveniles may simultaneously influence development. Here, we review the pleiotropic functions in nervous system development and amygdala-dependent learning of a signaling pathway that includes brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), extracellular signaling-related kinases (ERKs) and cyclic AMP-response element binding protein (CREB). Using these canonical, plasticity-related genes as an example, we discuss the intersection of learning-related and developmental plasticity in the immature amygdala, when aversive and appetitive learning may influence the developmental trajectory of amygdala function. We propose that learning-dependent activation of BDNF, ERK and CREB signaling in the immature amygdala exaggerates and accelerates neural development, promoting amygdala excitability and environmental sensitivity later in life.


Amygdala; BDNF; CREB; ERK; GABA; critical period; development; excitability; learning and memory; plasticity

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center