The amygdala complex integrates stressful stimuli and is critical in transducing their aversive value into autonomic, endocrine and behavioural responses. Stimulation within the amygdala complex produces signs of fear without a relevant external object, while lesions in this region abolish normal fear responses. In a manner characteristic of phylogenetically old limbic brain areas, the complex neurochemical anatomy of the amygdala involves a large number of phylogenetically old peptide mediators. The distribution and connectivity of these peptide systems have been extensively studied, but less is known about their functional role. Recent evidence suggests that two neuropeptides, corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and neuropeptide Y (NPY) exert a reciprocal regulation of responsiveness to stressful stimuli, possibly via an interaction of these two systems in the amygdala.