Amygdala inputs to prefrontal cortex guide behavior amid conflicting cues of reward and punishment
Nat Neurosci. 2017-06-24; 20(6): 824-835
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Orchestrating appropriate behavioral responses in the face of competing signals
that predict either rewards or threats in the environment is crucial for
survival. The basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA) and prelimbic (PL) medial
prefrontal cortex have been implicated in reward-seeking and fear-related
responses, but how information flows between these reciprocally connected
structures to coordinate behavior is unknown. We recorded neuronal activity from
the BLA and PL while rats performed a task wherein competing shock- and
sucrose-predictive cues were simultaneously presented. The correlated firing
primarily displayed a BLA→PL directionality during the shock-associated cue.
Furthermore, BLA neurons optogenetically identified as projecting to PL more
accurately predicted behavioral responses during competition than unidentified
BLA neurons. Finally photostimulation of the BLA→PL projection increased
freezing, whereas both chemogenetic and optogenetic inhibition reduced freezing.
Therefore, the BLA→PL circuit is critical in governing the selection of
behavioral responses in the face of competing signals.