The Behavioral Neuroscience of the Septal Region

pp 234-269

The Septal Complex as Seen Through the Context of Fear

  • Peter D. Sparks
  • , Joseph E. LeDoux

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Over the past 15 years research concerning the neural basis of emotion has flourished. Progress has been especially swift in studies of the neural systems underlying fear (see Davis 1992; Kapp et al. 1992; Davis 1994; LeDoux 1996). Although there is still much to be known, the fear system stands as one of the most well-defined functional neural systems in the brain. Across studies using a variety of species, training conditions, and labs, one structure—the amygdala—has been consistently shown to play a critical role in the mediation of fear. To be specific, the amygdala has been shown to be critical for learning to fear previously neutral stimuli, and activating defensive behaviors in response to learned, as well as innate, threats (for review see LeDoux 1996). Nevertheless, other neural structures, such as the medial prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and septum, contribute to, or modulate, the processing of fear by the amygdala and the resulting expression of defensive behaviors as well (e.g., Blanchard and Fial 1968; Seiden et al. 1991; Kim and Fanselow 1992; Phillips and LeDoux 1992; Morgan and LeDoux 1993; Sparks and LeDoux 1995; Maren and Fanselow 1996; Frankland et al. 1998). This chapter examines the contribution of the septum to fear and the expression of defensive behaviors.