Perception of aversive sensory stimuli such as pain and innate threat cues is essential for animal survival. The amygdala is critical for aversive sensory perception, and it has been suggested that multiple parallel pathways independently relay aversive cues from each sensory modality to the amygdala. However, a convergent pathway that relays all aversive sensory cues to the amygdala has not been identified. Here, we report that neurons expressing calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) in the parvocellular subparafasicular thalamic nucleus (SPFp) is necessary and sufficient for affective-motivational pain perception by forming a spino-thalamo-amygdaloid pain pathway. In addition, we find that this CGRP pathway, together with the parabrachio-amygdaloid CGRP pathway, is critical for the perception of threat stimuli from all sensory modalities. The discovery of unified pathways that collectively gates aversive sensory stimuli from all sensory modalities may provide critical circuit-based insights for developing therapeutic interventions for affective pain- and innate fear-related disorders.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience