Divergent medial amygdala projections regulate approach-avoidance conflict behavior

Nat Neurosci. 2019 Apr;22(4):565-575. doi: 10.1038/s41593-019-0337-z. Epub 2019 Feb 25.


Avoidance of innate threats is often in conflict with motivations to engage in exploratory approach behavior. The neural pathways that mediate this approach-avoidance conflict are not well resolved. Here we isolated a population of dopamine D1 receptor (D1R)-expressing neurons within the posteroventral region of the medial amygdala (MeApv) in mice that are activated either during approach or during avoidance of an innate threat stimulus. Distinct subpopulations of MeApv-D1R neurons differentially innervate the ventromedial hypothalamus and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, and these projections have opposing effects on investigation or avoidance of threatening stimuli. These projections are potently modulated through opposite actions of D1R signaling that bias approach behavior. These data demonstrate divergent pathways in the MeApv that can be differentially weighted toward exploration or evasion of threats.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Corticomedial Nuclear Complex / cytology
  • Corticomedial Nuclear Complex / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / physiology*
  • Septal Nuclei / cytology
  • Ventromedial Hypothalamic Nucleus / cytology


  • Receptors, Dopamine D1