Neuron and glia numbers in the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala from preweaning through old age in male and female rats: a stereological study

J Comp Neurol. 2009 Feb 20;512(6):717-25. doi: 10.1002/cne.21924.


The rat basolateral nucleus of the amygdala continues to develop connectivity with the frontal cortex through the periadolescent period and even into young adulthood. Although neuronal loss in the prefrontal cortex has been found during the periadolescent period, prior literature has not examined whether neuron number in the basolateral amygdala is stable through this period. In addition, aging of the rat basolateral nucleus is accompanied by significant increases in the dendritic tree of its principal neurons, but whether this occurs in the context of neuronal death has not been previously explored. In the present study, a stereological examination of neuron and glia numbers in the rat basolateral amygdalar nucleus was undertaken in male and female hooded rats at four ages across the lifespan. Our findings indicate 1) a significant decrease in the number of neurons and glia in the basolateral nucleus between adolescence and adulthood; and 2) the number of glia, as well as the volume of the basolateral nucleus, increases between adulthood and old age, whereas neuron number remains stable. These findings provide an important cellular context for interpretation of the neurochemical and other alterations documented in developmental and age-related literature on the rat basolateral amygdala, and underline the substantial development of this brain area during adolescence, as well as its comparative preservation during aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Sex Characteristics