The central amygdala as an integrative hub for anxiety and alcohol use disorders

Biol Psychiatry. 2015 May 15;77(10):859-69. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.09.008. Epub 2014 Sep 22.


The central amygdala (CeA) plays a central role in physiologic and behavioral responses to fearful stimuli, stressful stimuli, and drug-related stimuli. The CeA receives dense inputs from cortical regions, is the major output region of the amygdala, is primarily GABAergic (inhibitory), and expresses high levels of prostress and antistress peptides. The CeA is also a constituent region of a conceptual macrostructure called the extended amygdala that is recruited during the transition to alcohol dependence. We discuss neurotransmission in the CeA as a potential integrative hub between anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorder, which are commonly co-occurring in humans. Imaging studies in humans and multidisciplinary work in animals collectively suggest that CeA structure and function are altered in individuals with anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorder, the end result of which may be disinhibition of downstream "effector" regions that regulate anxiety-related and alcohol-related behaviors.

Keywords: Anxiety disorder; CRF; Extended amygdala; GABA; NPY; Posttraumatic stress disorder.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Central Amygdaloid Nucleus / physiopathology*
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology
  • Ethanol
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neuropeptide Y / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology


  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Ethanol
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone