Exposure to an open-field arena increases c-Fos expression in a distributed anxiety-related system projecting to the basolateral amygdaloid complex

M. W. Hale, A. Hay-Schmidt, J. D. Mikkelsen, B. Poulsen, A. Shekhar, C. A. Lowry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Scopus citations


Anxiety states and anxiety-related behaviors appear to be regulated by a distributed and highly interconnected system of brain structures including the basolateral amygdala. Our previous studies demonstrate that exposure of rats to an open-field in high- and low-light conditions results in a marked increase in c-Fos expression in the anterior part of the basolateral amygdaloid nucleus (BLA) compared with controls. The neural mechanisms underlying the anatomically specific effects of open-field exposure on c-Fos expression in the BLA are not clear, however, it is likely that this reflects activation of specific afferent input to this region of the amygdala. In order to identify candidate brain regions mediating anxiety-induced activation of the basolateral amygdaloid complex in rats, we used cholera toxin B subunit (CTb) as a retrograde tracer to identify neurons with direct afferent projections to this region in combination with c-Fos immunostaining to identify cells responding to exposure to an open-field arena in low-light (8-13 lux) conditions (an anxiogenic stimulus in rats). Adult male Wistar rats received a unilateral microinjection of 4% CTb in phosphate-buffered saline into the basolateral amygdaloid complex. Rats were housed individually for 11 days after CTb injections and handled (HA) for 2 min each day. On the test day rats were either, 1) exposed to an open-field in low-light conditions (8-13 lux) for 15 min (OF); 2) briefly HA or 3) left undisturbed (control). We report that dual immunohistochemical staining for c-Fos and CTb revealed an increase in the percentage of c-Fos-immunopositive basolateral amygdaloid complex-projecting neurons in open-field-exposed rats compared with HA and control rats in the ipsilateral CA1 region of the ventral hippocampus, subiculum and lateral entorhinal cortex. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that exposure to the open-field arena activates an anxiety-related neuronal system with convergent input to the basolateral amygdaloid complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-672
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 26 2008


  • anxiety
  • basolateral amygdala
  • c-Fos
  • hippocampus
  • retrograde tracing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Exposure to an open-field arena increases c-Fos expression in a distributed anxiety-related system projecting to the basolateral amygdaloid complex'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this