Increased social fear and decreased fear of objects in monkeys with neonatal amygdala lesions

Neuroscience. 2001;106(4):653-8. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(01)00445-6.


The amygdala has been implicated in the mediation of emotional and species-specific social behavior (Kling et al., 1970; Kling and Brothers, 1992; Kluver and Bucy, 1939; Rosvold et al., 1954). Humans with bilateral amygdala damage are impaired in judging negative emotion in facial expressions and making accurate judgements of trustworthiness (Adolphs et al., 1998, 1994). Amygdala dysfunction has also been implicated in human disorders ranging from social anxiety (Birbaumer et al., 1998) to depression (Drevets, 2000) to autism (Bachevalier, 1994; Baron-Cohen et al., 2000; Bauman and Kemper, 1993). We produced selective amygdala lesions in 2-week-old macaque monkeys who were returned to their mothers for rearing. At 6-8 months of age, the lesioned animals demonstrated less fear of novel objects such as rubber snakes than age-matched controls. However, they displayed substantially more fear behavior than controls during dyadic social interactions. These results suggest that neonatal amygdala lesions dissociate a system that mediates social fear from one that mediates fear of inanimate objects. Furthermore, much of the age-appropriate repertoire of social behavior was present in amygdala-lesioned infants indicating that these lesions do not produce autistic-like behavior in monkeys. Finally, amygdala lesions early in development have different effects on social behavior than lesions produced in adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Amygdala / growth & development*
  • Amygdala / injuries
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Denervation
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta / anatomy & histology
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Social Behavior Disorders / etiology
  • Social Behavior Disorders / pathology
  • Social Behavior Disorders / physiopathology
  • Social Behavior*