The Xenopus amygdala mediates socially appropriate vocal communication signals. Academic Article uri icon


  • Social interaction requires that relevant sensory information is collected, classified, and distributed to the motor areas that initiate an appropriate behavioral response. Vocal exchanges, in particular, depend on linking auditory processing to an appropriate motor expression. Because of its role in integrating sensory information for the purpose of action selection, the amygdala has been implicated in social behavior in many mammalian species. Here, we show that two nuclei of the extended amygdala play essential roles in vocal communication in the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis. Transport of fluorescent dextran amines identifies the X. laevis central amygdala (CeA) as a target for ascending auditory information from the central thalamic nucleus and as a major afferent to the vocal pattern generator of the hindbrain. In the isolated (ex vivo) brain, electrical stimulation of the CeA, or the neighboring bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), initiates bouts of fictive calling. In vivo, lesioning the CeA of males disrupts the production of appropriate vocal responses to females and to broadcasts of female calls. Lesioning the BNST in males produces an overall decrease in calling behavior. Together, these results suggest that the anuran CeA evaluates the valence of acoustic cues and initiates socially appropriate vocal responses to communication signals, whereas the BNST plays a role in the initiation of vocalizations.

publication date

  • September 4, 2013