A major population of neurons in the central nucleus of amygdala (CeA) send projections to the periaqueductal gray (PAG), a key midbrain structure that mediates coping strategies in response to threat or stress. While the CeA-PAG pathway has proved to be a component of descending anti-nociceptive circuitry, the functional organization of CeA-PAG neurons remains unclear. We identified CeA-PAG neurons in C57BL/6 mice of both sexes using intracranial injection of a fluorescent retrograde tracer into the PAG. In acute brain slices, we investigated the topographical and intrinsic characteristics of retrogradely labelled CeA-PAG neurons using epifluorescence and whole-cell electrophysiology. We also measured changes to CeA-PAG neurons in the complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) model of inflammatory pain. Neurons in the central lateral (CeL) and central medial (CeM) amygdala project primarily to different regions of the PAG. CeL-PAG neurons consist of a relatively homogeneous population of intrinsically distinct neurons while CeM-PAG neurons are intrinsically heterogeneous. Membrane properties of distinct CeM-PAG subtypes are altered 1 day after induction of the CFA inflammatory pain model. Collectively, our results provide insight into pain-induced changes to a specific population of CeA neurons that probably play a key role in the integration of noxious input with endogenous analgesia and behavioural coping response.
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