Amygdala modulation of memory-related processes in the hippocampus: potential relevance to PTSD

Prog Brain Res. 2008:167:35-51. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(07)67003-4.


A key assumption in the study of stress-induced cognitive and neurobiological modifications is that alterations in hippocampal functioning after stress are due to an excessive activity exerted by the amygdala on the hippocampus. Research so far focused on stress-induced impairment of hippocampal plasticity and memory but an exposure to stress may simultaneously also result in strong emotional memories. In fact, under normal conditions emotionally charged events are better remembered compared with neutral ones. Results indicate that under these conditions there is an increase in activity within the amygdala that may lead to memory of a different quality. Studying the way emotionality activates the amygdala and the functional impact of this activation we found that the amygdala modulates memory-related processes in other brain areas, such as the hippocampus. However, this modulation is complex, involving both enhancing and suppressing effects, depending on the way the amygdala is activated and the hippocampal subregion examined. The current review summarizes our findings and attempts to put them in context with the impact of an exposure to a traumatic experience, in which there is a mixture of a strong memory of some aspects of the experience but impaired memory of other aspects of that experience. Toward that end, we have recently developed an animal model for the induction of predisposition to stress-related disorders, focusing on the consequences of exposure to stressors during juvenility on the ability to cope with stress in adulthood. Exposing juvenile-stressed rats to an additional stressful challenge in adulthood revealed their impairment to cope with stress and resulted in significant elevation of the amygdala. Interestingly, and similar to our electrophysiological findings, differential effects were observed between the impact of the emotional challenge on CA1 and dentate gyrus subregions of the hippocampus. Taken together, the results indicate that long-term alterations within the amygdala contribute to stress-related mnemonic symptoms and suggest that elucidating further these intra-amygdala alterations and their effects on modulating other brain regions is likely to be beneficial for the development of novel approaches to treat stress-related disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Amygdala / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*