Enhancement of acoustic startle by electrical stimulation of the amygdala

Behav Neurosci. 1988 Apr;102(2):195-202, 324. doi: 10.1037//0735-7044.102.2.195.


The present study demonstrated that electrical stimulation of the amygdala enhanced the acoustic startle response. A 25-ms train of 0.1-ms pulses initiated 5 ms before the onset of a 20-ms noise burst significantly increased startle at currents from 40 to 400 microA. Electrode placements just medial to the amygdala (in the pathway connecting the amygdala to the brain stem) increased startle with the lowest currents. Startle was also increased in all animals with stimulation in the central, medial, and intercalated nuclei of the amygdala. Stimulation in areas surrounding the amygdaloid complex was ineffective. In a second experiment, paired pulses with interpulse intervals between 0.1 and 20.0 ms delivered to the amygdala demonstrated that the stimulated axons had a distribution of refractory periods between 0.6 and 1.0 ms. This suggests that the population of neurons which subserves the enhancement of acoustic startle is fairly homogeneous and has small, myelinated axons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology*