Dual and Opposing Functions of the Central Amygdala in the Modulation of Pain

Cell Rep. 2019 Oct 8;29(2):332-346.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.09.011.


Pain perception is essential for survival and can be amplified or suppressed by expectations, experiences, and context. The neural mechanisms underlying bidirectional modulation of pain remain largely unknown. Here, we demonstrate that the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) functions as a pain rheostat, decreasing or increasing pain-related behaviors in mice. This dual and opposing function of the CeA is encoded by opposing changes in the excitability of two distinct subpopulations of GABAergic neurons that receive excitatory inputs from the parabrachial nucleus (PB). Thus, cells expressing protein kinase C-delta (CeA-PKCδ) are sensitized by nerve injury and increase pain-related responses. In contrast, cells expressing somatostatin (CeA-Som) are inhibited by nerve injury and their activity drives antinociception. Together, these results demonstrate that the CeA can amplify or suppress pain in a cell-type-specific manner, uncovering a previously unknown mechanism underlying bidirectional control of pain in the brain.

Keywords: amygdala circuit; central amygdala; chemogenetics; intrinsic excitability; pain; pain pathways; parabrachial nucleus; protein kinase C delta; somatostatin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Amygdaloid Nucleus / physiopathology*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Female
  • Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Hypersensitivity / physiopathology
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Tissue / injuries
  • Neuralgia / complications
  • Neuralgia / physiopathology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase C-delta / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Sciatic Nerve / injuries
  • Sciatic Nerve / pathology
  • Temperature
  • Touch


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Protein Kinase C-delta