The amygdala: corticotropin-releasing factor, steroids, and stress

Crit Rev Neurobiol. 1996;10(2):155-68. doi: 10.1615/critrevneurobiol.v10.i2.10.


The possible function of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), adrenal steroids, and gonadal steroids in amygdala-mediated responses to anxiogenic or stressful stimuli is reviewed. The amygdala is part of an endogenous CRF circuitry within the brain that mediates neuroendocrine, autonomic, and behavioral changes in response to stress. The amygdala contains CRF-expressing neurons that communicate with widespread regions of the neural axis. High densities of CRF, CRF-binding protein, and CRF receptors are located in the amygdala. Direct injections of CRF into the amygdala produce anxiety-like behaviors. Release of endogenous CRF can be measured in the amygdala during stress. Potent anxiolytic actions are observed when CRF receptor antagonists are administered into the amygdala. CRF-containing neurons of the amygdala can be directly modulated by alterations in circulating glucocorticoids through glucocorticoid receptors, which are expressed in amygdaloid CRF-containing neurons. Gonadal steroid hormone receptors are found in the amygdala. They are not located in CRF immunoreactive neurons, but they are located adjacent to CRF-expressing neurons and in amygdaloid neurons that are likely to participate in central autonomic and neuroendocrine circuitry. Differences are noted between the steroid influences in the amygdala of male and female animals. Also, evidence is reviewed suggesting a modulatory role in the amygdala for gonadal and adrenal steroids in behavioral, autonomic, and neuroendocrine responses to anxiogenic stimuli.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology*
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology*


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone