Abstract

The amygdala receives cortical inputs from the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) that are believed to affect emotional control and cue-outcome contingencies, respectively. Although mPFC impact on the amygdala has been studied, how the OFC modulates mPFC–amygdala information flow, specifically the infralimbic (IL) division of mPFC, is largely unknown. In this study, combined in vivo extracellular single-unit recordings and pharmacological manipulations were used in anesthetized rats to examine how OFC modulates amygdala neurons responsive to mPFC activation. Compared with basal condition, pharmacological (N-Methyl-D-aspartate) or electrical activation of the OFC exerted an inhibitory modulation of the mPFC–amygdala pathway, which was reversed with intra-amygdala blockade of GABAergic receptors with combined GABAA and GABAB antagonists (bicuculline and saclofen). Moreover, potentiation of the OFC-related pathways resulted in a loss of OFC control over the mPFC–amygdala pathway. These results show that the OFC potently inhibits mPFC drive of the amygdala in a GABA-dependent manner; but with extended OFC pathway activation this modulation is lost. Our results provide a circuit-level basis for this interaction at the level of the amygdala, which would be critical in understanding the normal and pathophysiological control of emotion and contingency associations regulating behavior.

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