Shining Light on An Amygdala – Brainstem Connection Important for Attention Processing

Jose Carlos Cano, University of Texas at El Paso


We are continuously being exposed to an exorbitant amount of sensory information, which should result overwhelming. However, the nervous system operates several intrinsic sensory filtering mechanisms that allow us to cope with such sensory cluttering and shape appropriate behavior. Sensorimotor gating is a pre-attentive neuronal filtering mechanism that gates superfluous sensory information, and orients attentional resources towards salient information processing. Its relevance becomes in individuals suffering from schizophrenia and several otherwise unrelated neuropsychiatric disorders where sensorimotor gating is impaired. To understand the neural impaired mechanisms, extensive research studies have focused on first identifying the neural substrates underlying sensorimotor gating. This doctoral research project focuses on a connection, centrally located in the sensorimotor gating circuit, for its potential role in pre-attentive processing. In mice, we first characterized the neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of a connection from the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) to the caudal pontine reticular nucleus (PnC), at the core of the sensorimotor gating circuit. Secondly, we analyzed the synaptic properties of an excitatory subset of CeA-PnC synapses, and whether it modulates PnC activity in vitro. We then assessed the role of this connection in sensorimotor gating in vivo. Lastly, to provide a mechanistic basis for the role of this excitatory connection in an inhibitory mechanism, we investigated the identity of the PnC components receiving CeA excitatory inputs. Results from this dissertation research project contribute to the knowledge of the neural substrates underlying sensorimotor gating. Ultimately, a better insight on this matter might reveal potential therapeutic targets to be tested in models of diseases associated with sensorimotor gating deficits.

Subject Area

Biology|Neurosciences|Psychobiology|Physiological psychology

Recommended Citation

Cano, Jose Carlos, "Shining Light on An Amygdala – Brainstem Connection Important for Attention Processing" (2019). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI27667501.