The central nucleus of the amygdala (Ce) mediates cardiovascular and autonomic changes associated with defense or fear responses. At least 16 different neuropeptides have been identified within nerve terminals within the Ce. The role that these peptides play in the Ce regulation of cardiovascular and autonomic function has been assessed. Neuropeptides were microinjected into the region of the Ce and mean arterial pressure (MAP), heart rate (HR) and plasma catecholamine concentrations were measured. Five of the 16 peptides caused changes of MAP and HR. Thyrotropin releasing factor (TRF) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) induced increases of MAP and HR. Angiotensin-II (A-II) and somatostatin-28 (SS-28) injection produced increases of MAP and decreases of HR. Bombesin (Bom) injections into the Ce induced an increase of MAP but did not alter HR. Corticotropin releasing factor (CRF), TRF and CGRP were the only peptides found to increase plasma catecholamine concentrations. These results support the conclusion that the Ce contains several peptides that could be involved in the regulation of cardiovascular and autonomic nervous system function. A role of the amygdala in mediating the observed effects of CRF, TRF, CGRP, A-II, SS-28, and Bom is suggested by these studies.