Understanding emotions: Origins and roles of the amygdala

Goran Šimić, Mladenka Tkalčić, Vana Vukić, Damir Mulc, Ena Španić, Marina Šagud, Francisco E. Olucha-Bordonau, Mario Vukšić, Patrick R. Hof

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Emotions arise from activations of specialized neuronal populations in several parts of the cerebral cortex, notably the anterior cingulate, insula, ventromedial prefrontal, and subcortical structures, such as the amygdala, ventral striatum, putamen, caudate nucleus, and ventral tegmen-tal area. Feelings are conscious, emotional experiences of these activations that contribute to neuronal networks mediating thoughts, language, and behavior, thus enhancing the ability to predict, learn, and reappraise stimuli and situations in the environment based on previous experiences. Contemporary theories of emotion converge around the key role of the amygdala as the central subcortical emotional brain structure that constantly evaluates and integrates a variety of sensory information from the surroundings and assigns them appropriate values of emotional dimensions, such as valence, intensity, and approachability. The amygdala participates in the regulation of autonomic and endocrine functions, decision-making and adaptations of instinctive and motivational behaviors to changes in the environment through implicit associative learning, changes in short-and long-term synaptic plasticity, and activation of the fight-or-flight response via efferent projections from its central nucleus to cortical and subcortical structures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number823
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Amygdala
  • Anxiety
  • Emotion
  • Evolution
  • Fear


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