nuclei encompass several structures with distinct functional traits. Among these nuclei are the basolateral complex, the cortical nucleus, the medial nucleus, and the central nucleus. The basolateral complex can be further subdivided into the lateral, the basal, and the accessory basal nuclei.
Anatomically, the amygdala and more particularly, its central and medial nuclei, have sometimes been classified as a part of the basal ganglia."
"The amygdala sends impulses to the hypothalamus for activation of the sympathetic nervous system, to the thalamic reticular nucleus for increased reflexes, to the nuclei of the trigeminal nerve and the facial nerve, and to the ventral tegmental area, locus coeruleus, and laterodorsal tegmental nucleus for activation of dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine."
"In complex vertebrates, including humans, the amygdalae perform primary roles in the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events."
The Amygdala and its Allies (BTB)
In certain studies, researchers have directly stimulated the amygdalae of patients who were undergoing brain surgery, and asked them to report their impressions. The subjective experience that these patients reported most often was one of imminent danger and fear. In studies of the very small number of patients who have had had only their amygdala destroyed (as the result of a stroke, for example), they recognized the facial expressions of every emotion except fear.
In fact, the amygdala seems to modulate all of our reactions to events that are very important for our survival. Events that warn us of imminent danger are therefore very important stimuli for the amygdala, but so are events that signal the presence of food, sexual partners, rivals, children in distress, and so on.That is why the amygdala has so many connections with several other structures in the brain."
The statement that "As with most other brain structures, you actually have two amygdalae (shown in red in the drawing here). " is a little bit misleading. There are two of everything in the brain; one on the left and one on the right. This is no more true of the amygdala than of any other part of the brain.
This is only the Beginner-Neurological Level. Click on the link. On the left side of the page there are links for Intermediate and Advanced, and on the right side of the page there are links for Social, Psychological, Cellular and Molecular. Each link leads to a different page covering the same topic from a different perspective. The next two links, below, are examples.
Alarm System Circuits (BTB)
Another nucleus, the central nucleus, acts as the exit from the amygdala. The commands for the bodily responses associated with fear leave the amygdala from the central nucleus. In between the lateral nucleus and the central nucleus, several other nuclei gather information, process it, and send it on out via the central nucleus. Though not all of these nuclei are involved in the fear reaction, they do represent the centre of the body’s alarm system. "
Because neuroanatomists distinguish many different nuclei within the amygdala, the term “amygdaloid complex” is often preferred to denote this structure within the brain. This term is all the more appropriate in that some of these nuclei can be further broken down into various divisions. The following table lists these nuclei and their divisions.
Given all these nuclei and their many divisions, how does information circulate within the amygdaloid complex? Many studies have helped to reveal the wiring that enables the amygdala to detect potentially dangerous stimuli and orchestrate an appropriate physiological response.
First it was noted that the projections from the sensory regions of the brain enter the amygdala via the lateral nucleus, which constitutes the main gateway to the amygdala, though not the only one.
Some projections from various parts of the brain also converge at specific nuclei of the amygdaloid complex. For example, some projections from the entorhinal cortex terminate mainly in the basal nucleus, but also go to the central and lateral nuclei. The projections from the hypothalamus go to the central, medial, basal, and accessory basal nuclei.
Indeed, contrary to what was initially believed, the information flow within the amygdala is highly reciprocal. It does not simply travel in one direction, from the main entryway at the lateral nucleus to the exit from the central nucleus. Indeed, most of the main targets of the lateral nucleus send projections back to it as well.
The representations thus encoded in the amygdala and modulated by other brain structures ultimately converge at the output areas–primarily the central nucleus and the amygdalohippocampal area. This integration enables the brain to generate an activity pattern that can trigger the appropriate changes in the various structures responsible for the emotional reponse to the situation.