Functional internal complexity of amygdala: focus on gene activity mapping after behavioral training and drugs of abuse

Physiol Rev. 2007 Oct;87(4):1113-73. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00037.2006.


The amygdala is a heterogeneous brain structure implicated in processing of emotions and storing the emotional aspects of memories. Gene activity markers such as c-Fos have been shown to reflect both neuronal activation and neuronal plasticity. Herein, we analyze the expression patterns of gene activity markers in the amygdala in response to either behavioral training or treatment with drugs of abuse and then we confront the results with data on other approaches to internal complexity of the amygdala. c-Fos has been the most often studied in the amygdala, showing specific expression patterns in response to various treatments, most probably reflecting functional specializations among amygdala subdivisions. In the basolateral amygdala, c-Fos expression appears to be consistent with the proposed role of this nucleus in a plasticity of the current stimulus-value associations. Within the medial part of the central amygdala, c-Fos correlates with acquisition of alimentary/gustatory behaviors. On the other hand, in the lateral subdivision of the central amygdala, c-Fos expression relates to attention and vigilance. In the medial amygdala, c-Fos appears to be evoked by emotional novelty of the experimental situation. The data on the other major subdivisions of the amygdala are scarce. In conclusion, the studies on the gene activity markers, confronted with other approaches involving neuroanatomy, physiology, and the lesion method, have revealed novel aspects of the amygdala, especially pointing to functional heterogeneity of this brain region that does not fit very well into contemporarily active debate on serial versus parallel information processing within the amygdala.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Chromosome Mapping*
  • Genetics, Behavioral
  • Humans
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / physiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos