The extended amygdala: are the central nucleus of the amygdala and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis differentially involved in fear versus anxiety?

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1999 Jun 29;877:281-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1999.tb09273.x.


Although there is a close correspondence between fear and anxiety, and the study of fear in animals has been extremely valuable for understanding the neural basis of anxiety, it is also clear that a richer animal model of human anxiety disorders would include measures of both stimulus-specific fear and something less stimulus specific, more akin to anxiety. Patients with posttraumatic stress syndrome seem to show normal fear reactions but abnormal anxiety measured with the acoustic startle reflex. Studies in rats, also using the startle reflex, indicate that highly processed explicit cue information (lights, tones) activates the central nucleus of the amygdala, which projects to and modulates the acoustic startle pathway in the brain stem. Less explicit information, such as that produced by exposure to a threatening environment or by intraventricular administration of corticotropin-releasing hormone, may activate another part of the extended amygdala, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, which also projects to the startle pathway. Because this information may be less specific and of long duration, activation of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis may mediate anxiety, whereas activation of the central nucleus of the amygdala may mediate stimulus-specific fear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Caudate Nucleus / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Rats
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology
  • Thalamus / physiology*