Sequence of information processing for emotions based on the anatomic dialogue between prefrontal cortex and amygdala

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Abstract

The prefrontal cortex and the amygdala have synergistic roles in regulating purposive behavior, effected through bidirectional pathways. Here we investigated the largely unknown extent and laminar relationship of prefrontal input–output zones linked with the amygdala using neural tracers injected in the amygdala in rhesus monkeys. Prefrontal areas varied vastly in their connections with the amygdala, with the densest connections found in posterior orbitofrontal and posterior medial cortices, and the sparsest in anterior lateral prefrontal areas, especially area 10. Prefrontal projection neurons directed to the amygdala originated in layer 5, but significant numbers were also found in layers 2 and 3 in posterior medial and orbitofrontal cortices. Amygdalar axonal terminations in prefrontal cortex were most frequently distributed in bilaminar bands in the superficial and deep layers, by columns spanning the entire cortical depth, and less frequently as small patches centered in the superficial or deep layers. Heavy terminations in layers 1–2 overlapped with calbindin-positive inhibitory neurons. A comparison of the relationship of input to output projections revealed that among the most heavily connected cortices, cingulate areas 25 and 24 issued comparatively more projections to the amygdala than they received, whereas caudal orbitofrontal areas were more receivers than senders. Further, there was a significant relationship between the proportion of ‘feedforward’ cortical projections from layers 2–3 to ‘feedback’ terminations innervating the superficial layers of prefrontal cortices. These findings indicate that the connections between prefrontal cortices and the amygdala follow similar patterns as corticocortical connections, and by analogy suggest pathways underlying the sequence of information processing for emotions.

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