DOI: 10.7554/elife.85459 ISSN: 2050-084X

Subcortico-amygdala pathway processes innate and learned threats

Valentina Khalil, Islam Faress, Noëmie Mermet-Joret, Peter Kerwin, Keisuke Yonehara, Sadegh Nabavi
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience

Behavioral flexibility and timely reactions to salient stimuli are essential for survival. The subcortical thalamic-basolateral amygdala (BLA) pathway serves as a shortcut for salient stimuli ensuring rapid processing. Here, we show that BLA neuronal and thalamic axonal activity in mice mirror the defensive behavior evoked by an innate visual threat as well as an auditory learned threat. Importantly, perturbing this pathway compromises defensive responses to both forms of threats, in that animals fail to switch from exploratory to defensive behavior. Despite the shared pathway between the two forms of threat processing, we observed noticeable differences. Blocking β-adrenergic receptors impairs the defensive response to the innate but not the learned threats. This reduced defensive response, surprisingly, is reflected in the suppression of the activity exclusively in the BLA as the thalamic input response remains intact. Our side-by-side examination highlights the similarities and differences between innate and learned threat-processing, thus providing new fundamental insights.

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