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Pain Control pp 261-284 | Cite as

Amygdala Pain Mechanisms

  • Volker NeugebauerEmail author
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 227)

Abstract

A limbic brain area, the amygdala plays a key role in emotional responses and affective states and disorders such as learned fear, anxiety, and depression. The amygdala has also emerged as an important brain center for the emotional–affective dimension of pain and for pain modulation. Hyperactivity in the laterocapsular division of the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeLC, also termed the “nociceptive amygdala”) accounts for pain-related emotional responses and anxiety-like behavior. Abnormally enhanced output from the CeLC is the consequence of an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory mechanisms. Impaired inhibitory control mediated by a cluster of GABAergic interneurons in the intercalated cell masses (ITC) allows the development of glutamate- and neuropeptide-driven synaptic plasticity of excitatory inputs from the brainstem (parabrachial area) and from the lateral–basolateral amygdala network (LA-BLA, site of integration of polymodal sensory information). BLA hyperactivity also generates abnormally enhanced feedforward inhibition of principal cells in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), a limbic cortical area that is strongly interconnected with the amygdala. Pain-related mPFC deactivation results in cognitive deficits and failure to engage cortically driven ITC-mediated inhibitory control of amygdala processing. Impaired cortical control allows the uncontrolled persistence of amygdala pain mechanisms.

Keywords

Amygdala Pain Plasticity Neurotransmitter mGluR CGRP CRF NPS 

Abbreviations

BLA

Basolateral amygdala

CB1

Cannabinoid receptor 1

CeA

Central nucleus of the amygdala

CeLC

Laterocapsular division of the central nucleus of the amygdala

ITC

Intercalated cell mass

LA

Lateral amygdala

mGluR

Metabotropic glutamate receptor

mPFC

Medial prefrontal cortex

NPS

Neuropeptide S

PB

Parabrachial area

Notes

Acknowledgements

Work in the author’s lab is supported by National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Grants NS-081121, NS-38261, and NS-11255.

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, Center for Translational Neuroscience and TherapeuticsTexas Tech University Health Sciences CenterLubbockUSA

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