- Brain Awareness Week
Delineating the microcircuitry of brain systems involved in emotion
Work in this laboratory is primarily directed at delineating the microcircuitry of brain systems involved in emotion. Of particular interest are the input-output relationships of the amygdala and how they interact with the nucleus accumbens-ventral pallidum system thought to govern appetitive and goal-directed behaviors. Current work is focused on testing the hypothesis that the central extended amygdala is not the principal output structure of the amygdala, as currently thought, but is an integral part of the basal ganglia macrosystem. Rather than linking the amygdala with endocrine and autonomic structures, we believe the central extended amygdala may strongly influence emotive and appetitive behavior by controlling the flow of 'sensory' information related to appetite and emotion into the other motor-related components of the basal ganglia. We are currently using anatomical methods in rodents to determine whether the extended amygdala participates in the same types of circuit networks as the rest of the basal ganglia, whether the neurochemical compartments of the extended amygdala mirror those in the nucleus accumbens system, and determine from following single axons what the likely sequence of sensory information flow is through the amygdala. We hope that by developing a new, network model of the amygdala and its external relationships, we can offer new insights into understanding the brain mechanisms behind emotion and how disruptions in these mechanisms lead to psychiatric disorders.