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Gordon Research Conference: Amygdala Function in Emotion, Cognition & Disease

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Easton, Massachusetts
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The amygdala is a brain structure known to play a pivotal role in emotion, and has become the focus of interest to neuroscientists and the lay public in recent years. Rapid progress has been made in elucidating the cellular and molecular plasticity mechanisms involved in the acquisition and expression of conditioned fear, largely using rodent models. However, there has been growing appreciation of the critical role of the amygdala in reward processing and other brain functions that become abnormal in addiction. There is marked overlap in the amygdala plasticity mechanisms found to be maladaptive in models of, for example, drug abuse and anxiety. Added to this is a compelling body of clinical evidence implicating the amygdala in disorders ranging from PTSD and autism to substance abuse and other addictions. The meeting will focus on research investigating the role of the amygdala in both normal and pathological processes spanning multiple levels of neural organization—from molecular and cellular mechanisms at one end to circuits, networks, behavior, and disease at the other. An overarching rationale for this meeting is to bring together amygdala scientists and scientist-clinicians with differing scientific questions and approaches who have advanced our understanding of the biological basis of behavior and illness. Meaningful interactions between scientists with different questions, different techniques, and different levels of analysis with clinician-scientists will serve as an impetus for new collaborations that may translate basic discovery research findings. The meeting will reflect on ongoing shift in psychiatry toward framing the study of mental illness in terms of aberrant neural circuit functions. The amygdala is recognized as a central node within brain systems subserving an array of higher-order behaviors that are disturbed in various mental disorders.