Regulation of the fear network by mediators of stress: Norepinephrine alters the balance between cortical and subcortical afferent excitation of the lateral amygdala

Luke R. Johnson, Mian Hou, Eric M. Prager, Joseph E. LeDoux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Pavlovian auditory fear conditioning involves the integration of information about an acoustic conditioned stimulus (CS) and an aversive unconditioned stimulus in the lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA). The auditory CS reaches the LA subcortically via a direct connection from the auditory thalamus and also from the auditory association cortex itself. How neural modulators, especially those activated during stress, such as norepinephrine (NE), regulate synaptic transmission and plasticity in this network is poorly understood. Here we show that NE inhibits synaptic transmission in both the subcortical and cortical input pathway but that sensory processing is biased toward the subcortical pathway. In addition binding of NE to β-adrenergic receptors further dissociates sensory processing in the LA. These findings suggest a network mechanism that shifts sensory balance toward the faster but more primitive subcortical input.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - May 1 2011



  • Fear
  • Fear conditioning
  • High road
  • Low road
  • PTSD
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Cite this