Functionally distinct amygdala subregions identified using DTI and high-resolution fMRI

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Although the amygdala is often directly linked with fear and emotion, amygdala neurons are activated by a wide variety of emotional and non-emotional stimuli. Different subregions within the amygdala may be engaged preferentially by different aspects of emotional and non-emotional tasks. To test this hypothesis, we measured and compared the effects of novelty and fear on amygdala activity. We used high-resolution blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) imaging and streamline tractography to subdivide the amygdala into three distinct functional subunits. We identified a laterobasal subregion connected with the visual cortex that responds generally to visual stimuli, a non-projecting region that responds to salient visual stimuli, and a centromedial subregion connected with the diencephalon that responds only when a visual stimulus predicts an aversive outcome. We provide anatomical and functional support for a model of amygdala function where information enters through the laterobasal subregion, is processed by intrinsic circuits in the interspersed tissue, and is then passed to the centromedial subregion, where activation leads to behavioral output.

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