The role of the amygdala in signaling prospective outcome of choice

Neuron. 2002 Mar 14;33(6):983-94. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(02)00626-8.


Can brain activity reveal a covert choice? Making a choice often evokes distinct emotions that accompany decision processes. Amygdala has been implicated in choice behavior that is guided by a prospective negative outcome. However, its specific involvement in emotional versus cognitive processing of choice behavior has been a subject of controversy. In this study, the human amygdala was monitored by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while subjects were playing in a naturalistic choice paradigm against the experimenter. In order to win, players had to occasionally choose to bluff their opponent, risk "getting caught," and suffer a loss. A critical period, when choice has been made but outcome was still unknown, activated the amygdala preferentially following the choice that entailed risk of loss. Thus, the response of the amygdala differentiated between subject's covert choice of either playing fair or foul. These results support a role of the amygdala in choice behavior, both in the appraisal of inherent value of choice and the signaling of prospective negative outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Games, Experimental
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged