Friday, September 11, 2009

The amygdala contributes to both aversive and appetitive arousal

Apparently the "scram!" and "go for it" emotions share some brain wiring. Shabel and Janak note that a large part of the amygdala, whose activation is usually associated with aversive emotions, is also activated during appetitive emotions. Thus there do not appear to be different circuits for the amygdala and autonomic nervous system arousal caused by positive versus aversive stimuli.
The amygdala is important for determining the emotional significance of environmental stimuli. However, the degree to which appetitive and aversive stimuli are processed by the same or different neuronal circuits within the amygdala remains unclear. Here we show that neuronal activity during the expression of classically conditioned appetitive and aversive emotional responses is more similar than expected by chance, despite the different sensory modalities of the eliciting stimuli. We also found that the activity of a large number of cells (> 43%) was correlated with blood pressure, a measure of emotional arousal. Together, our results suggest that a substantial proportion of neuronal circuits within the amygdala can contribute to both appetitive and aversive emotional arousal.

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