Structural differences in the hippocampus and amygdala of behaviorally inhibited macaque monkeys

Justine Villard, Jeffrey L. Bennett, Eliza Bliss-Moreau, John P. Capitanio, Nathan A. Fox, David G. Amaral, Pierre Lavenex

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Behavioral inhibition is a temperamental disposition to react warily when confronted by unfamiliar people, objects, or events. Behaviorally inhibited children are at greater risk of developing anxiety disorders later in life. Previous studies reported that individuals with a history of childhood behavioral inhibition exhibit abnormal activity in the hippocampus and amygdala. However, few studies have investigated the structural differences that may underlie these functional abnormalities. In this exploratory study, we evaluated rhesus monkeys exhibiting a phenotype consistent with human behavioral inhibition. We performed quantitative neuroanatomical analyses that cannot be performed in humans including estimates of the volume and neuron number of distinct hippocampal regions and amygdala nuclei in behaviorally inhibited and control rhesus monkeys. Behaviorally inhibited monkeys had larger volumes of the rostral third of the hippocampal field CA3, smaller volumes of the rostral third of CA2, and smaller volumes of the accessory basal nucleus of the amygdala. Furthermore, behaviorally inhibited monkeys had fewer neurons in the rostral third of CA2. These structural differences may contribute to the functional abnormalities in the hippocampus and amygdala of behaviorally inhibited individuals. These structural findings in monkeys are consistent with a reduced modulation of amygdala activity via prefrontal cortex projections to the accessory basal nucleus. Given the putative roles of the amygdala in affective processing, CA3 in associative learning and CA2 in social memory, increased amygdala and CA3 activity, and diminished CA2 structure and function, may be associated with increased social anxiety and the heritability of behavioral inhibition. The findings from this exploratory study compel follow-up investigations with larger sample sizes and additional analyses to provide greater insight and more definitive answers regarding the neurobiological bases of behavioral inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • amygdala
  • anxiety disorders
  • associative learning
  • behavioral inhibition
  • hippocampus
  • social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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