Are different parts of the extended amygdala involved in fear versus anxiety?

Biol Psychiatry. 1998 Dec 15;44(12):1239-47. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(98)00288-1.


Although there is a close correspondence between fear and anxiety, and the study of fear in animals has been extremely valuable for understanding brain systems that are important for anxiety, it is equally clear that a richer animal model of human anxiety disorders would include measures of both stimulus-specific fear and something less stimulus specific, more akin to anxiety. Studies in patients with posttraumatic stress syndrome indicate these individuals seem to show normal fear reactions but abnormal anxiety measured with the acoustic startle reflex. Studies in rats, also using the startle reflex, indicate that highly processed explicit cue information (lights, tones, touch) activates the central nucleus of the amygdala, which in turn activates hypothalamic and brain stem target areas involved in specific signs of fear. Somewhat less explicit information, such as that produced by exposure to a threating environment for several minutes or by intraventricular administration of the peptide corticotropin-releasing hormone may activate a brain area closely related to the amygdala, called the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, which in turn activates hypothalamic and brain stem target areas involved in specific signs of fear or anxiety. Because the nature of this information may be less specific than that produced by an explicit cue, and of much longer duration, activation of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis may be more akin to anxiety than to fear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • 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
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Rats
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology