Zhang-Molina C, Schmit MB, Cai H.
The Central nucleus of amygdala (CeA) contains distinct populations of neurons that play opposing roles in feeding. The circuit mechanism of how CeA neurons process information sent from their upstream inputs to regulate feeding is still unclear. Here we show that activation of the neural pathway projecting from insular cortex neurons to the CeA suppresses food intake. Surprisingly, we find that the inputs from insular cortex form excitatory connections with similar strength to all types of CeA neurons. To reconcile this puzzling result, and previous findings, we developed a conductance-based dynamical systems model for the CeA neuronal network. Computer simulations showed that both the intrinsic electrophysiological properties of individual CeA neurons and the overall synaptic organization of the CeA circuit play a functionally significant role in shaping CeA neural dynamics. We successfully identified a specific CeA circuit structure that reproduces the desired circuit output consistent with existing experimentally observed feeding behaviors.