Role of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis versus the amygdala in fear, stress, and anxiety

Eur J Pharmacol. 2003 Feb 28;463(1-3):199-216. doi: 10.1016/s0014-2999(03)01282-2.


The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis is a limbic forebrain structure that receives heavy projections from, among other areas, the basolateral amygdala, and projects in turn to hypothalamic and brainstem target areas that mediate many of the autonomic and behavioral responses to aversive or threatening stimuli. Despite its strategic anatomical position, initial attempts to implicate the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in conditioned fear were largely unsuccessful. Recent studies have shown, however, that the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis does participate in certain types of anxiety and stress responses. In this work, we review these findings and suggest from the emerging pattern of evidence that, although the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis may not be necessary for rapid-onset, short-duration behaviors which occur in response to specific threats, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis may mediate slower-onset, longer-lasting responses that frequently accompany sustained threats, and that may persist even after threat termination.

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 / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology
  • Septal Nuclei / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology


  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone