NMDA and AMPA receptors in the lateral nucleus of the amygdala are postsynaptic to auditory thalamic afferents

C. R. Farb, J. E. LeDoux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Projections from the medial geniculate body (MGB) to the lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA) have been implicated in the conditioning of emotional reactions to acoustic stimuli. Anatomical and physiological studies indicate that this pathway uses the excitatory amino acid L-glutamate as a transmitter. Recent physiological studies have demonstrated that synaptic transmission in the thalamo-amygdala pathway requires the activation of both N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionate (AMPA) receptors, two of the major classes of ionotrophic glutamate receptors. In order to characterize the nature of thalamoamygdala interactions, we examined the synaptic associations between thalamic afferents and amygdala neurons that contain at least one glutamate receptor subtype. Thalamic afferents to the amygdala were identified by lesion- induced anterograde degeneration and anterograde transport of biotinylated dextran-amine, while postsynaptic glutamate receptors were labeled immunocytochemically using antisera directed the R1 subunit of the NMDA receptor and the GluR1 and GluR2/3 subunits of the AMPA receptors. Both methods demonstrated that the majority (77%) of thalamic afferents contact dendritic spines, and most (60%) of these spines express at least one glutamate receptor subtype. To a lesser extent, identified afferents also contacted small and large dendritic shafts, and many of these were immunoreactive. Thalamic afferents terminated on approximately the same proportion (60%) of immunoreactive targets for each glutamate receptor studied. These data provide morphological evidence that thalamic afferents directly synapse onto amygdala neurons that express glutamate receptors and suggest ways in which thalamic afferents activate and influence amygdala circuitry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-121
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1997


  • Glutamate receptor
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Synapse
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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