The amygdala and appraisal processes: Stimulus and response complexity as an organizing factor

Dan Yaniv, Aline Desmedt, Robert Jaffard, Gal Richter-Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The amygdala has been implicated in a variety of functions, ranging from attention to memory to emotion. In theories about the amygdala's role in conditioned fear, the lateral amygdala (LA) is the primary, perhaps unique, interface for incoming conditioned sensory stimuli and the central nucleus is the major output station. Recent studies indicate, however, that amygdala output pathways may be dissociated as a function of the type of conditioned fear behavior. Based on behavioral, electrophysiological and anatomical evidence, the present discussion proposes a modification of the traditional model of input pathways to the amygdala such that the LA activation as a sensory interface is limited to relatively simple, unimodal conditioned stimulus features whereas the basal amygdaloid nucleus (B) may serve as an amygdaloid sensory interface for complex, configural conditioned stimulus information. We further argue that the partition of amygdalar nuclei according to a complexity dimension appears to correspond both for input and output pathways and thus constitutes a common organizing factor in the functional anatomy of the amygdala. The extensive intra-amygdala wiring is assumed to underlie the computations necessary to perform behavioral decisions of various levels of complexity. Collectively, these results endow the amygdala with a more sophisticated role in guiding motivation and behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-186
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research Reviews
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Mar 2004


  • Amygdala
  • Conditioning
  • Emotion
  • Fear
  • LTP
  • Lidocaine
  • Memory
  • Neural basis of behavior
  • Neural plasticity
  • Plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • General Neuroscience


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