Synaptic properties and postsynaptic opioid effects in rat central amygdala neurons

Neuroscience. 2004;127(4):871-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2004.05.043.


An important output of amygdaloid nuclei, the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) not only mediates negative emotional behaviors, but also participates in the stimulus-reward learning and expression of motivational aspects of many drugs of abuse, and links environmentally stressful conditions such as fear to endogenous pain-inhibiting mechanisms. The endogenous opioid system in the CeA is crucial for both reward behaviors and environmental stress-induced analgesia. In this study using whole-cell voltage-clamp recordings, we investigated synaptic inputs and the postsynaptic effects of opioid agonists in CeA neurons. We found that synaptic inputs evoked within the CeA were mediated by both glutamate and GABA, but those evoked from the basolateral amygdala were primarily glutamatergic. Based on membrane properties, three types of cells were characterized. Type A neurons had no spike accommodation while type B neurons displayed characteristic accommodating response. Type A neurons were further classified as either A1 or A2, based on differences in resting membrane potential and the amplitude of after-hyperpolarizing potential. micro-Opioid receptor agonists hyperpolarized a subpopulation of CeA neurons, of which the vast majority was type A1. This micro agonist-induced hyperpolarization was mediated by the opening of inwardly rectifying potassium channels. In contrast, the kappa-opioid receptor agonist hyperpolarized only type B neurons. These results illustrate three types of CeA neurons with distinctive membrane properties and differential responses to opioid agonists. They may represent functionally distinct CeA cell groups for the integration and execution of CeA outputs in the aforementioned CeA functions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects*
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Amygdala / drug effects*
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Narcotic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Opioid / agonists
  • Receptors, Opioid / physiology
  • Synapses / drug effects*
  • Synapses / physiology


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Receptors, Opioid