Amygdalar gating of early sensory processing through interactions with locus coeruleus

Cynthia D. Fast, John P. McGann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Fear-and stress-induced activity in the amygdala has been hypothesized to influence sensory brain regions through the influence of the amygdala on neuromodulatory centers. To directly examine this relationship, we used optical imaging to observe odor-evoked activity in populations of olfactory bulb inhibitory interneurons and of synaptic terminals of olfactory sensory neurons (the primary sensory neurons of the olfactory system, which provide the initial olfactory input to the brain) during pharmacological inactivation of amygdala and locus coeruleus (LC) in mice. Although the amygdala does not directly project to the olfactory bulb, joint pharmacological inactivation of the central, basolateral, and lateral nuclei of the amygdala nonetheless strongly suppressed odor-evoked activity in GABAergic inhibitory interneuron populations in the OB. This suppression was prevented by inactivation of LC or pretreatment of the olfactory bulb with a broad-spectrum noradrenergic receptor antagonist. Visualization of synaptic output from olfactory sensory neuron terminals into the olfactory bulb of the brain revealed that amygdalar inactivation preferentially strengthened the odor-evoked synaptic output of weakly activated populations of sensory afferents from the nose, thus demonstrating a change in sensory gating potentially mediated by local inhibition of olfactory sensory neuron terminals. Weconclude that amygdalar activity influences olfactory processing as early as the primary sensory input to the brain by modulating norepinephrine release from the locus coeruleus into the olfactory bulb. These findings show that the amygdala and LC state actively determines which sensory signals are selected for processing in sensory brain regions. Similar local circuitry operates in the olfactory, visual, and auditory systems, suggesting a potentially shared mechanism across modalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3085-3101
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 15 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • Affective
  • Amygdala
  • Emotional
  • Locus coeruleus
  • Olfactory
  • Sensory gating

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