Comparative analysis of the dendritic organization of principal neurons in the lateral and central nuclei of the rhesus macaque and rat amygdala

John T. Morgan, David G Amaral

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7 Scopus citations


The amygdala plays a critical role in emotional processing and has been implicated in the etiology of numerous psychiatric disorders. It is an evolutionarily ancient structure that is enlarged in primates relative to rodents. Certain amygdala nuclei, such as the lateral nucleus, show relatively greater phylogenetic expansion than other nuclei. However, it is unknown whether there is also differential alteration in neuronal features. To address this question, we examined the dendritic arbors of principal neurons, visualized by using the Golgi method, in the lateral and central nuclei of young adult rhesus macaques and rats. Total dendritic length is greater in the macaque than in the rat. Dendritic trees are increased by 250% in length in the lateral nucleus of the monkey compared with the rat (6,009 μm vs. 2,473 μm); dendritic tree length in the central nucleus is increased by 50% (1,786 μm vs. 1,232 μm). Somal volume is increased 62% between species in the lateral nucleus and 48% in the central nucleus. Spine density is lower on macaque lateral nucleus dendrites compared with rat (-22%) but equivalent in the central nucleus. Spines are equally long in the lateral nucleus of rat and macaque, but spines are longer by about 20% in the central nucleus of the macaque. The alterations in dendritic structure that we observed between the two species suggest differences in the number and spacing of inputs into these nuclei that undoubtedly influence amygdala function. J. Comp. Neurol. 522:689-716, 2014.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)689-716
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 15 2014



  • Amygdala
  • Central nucleus
  • Dendrite
  • Golgi
  • Lateral nucleus
  • Neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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