Parallel incentive processing: an integrated view of amygdala function

Trends Neurosci. 2006 May;29(5):272-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2006.03.002. Epub 2006 Mar 20.


The amygdala is a heterogeneous structure that has been implicated in a wide variety of functions, most notably in fear conditioning. From this research, an influential serial model of amygdala processes has emerged in which aversive learning is mediated by the amygdala basolateral nucleus whereas performance, in this case of various defensive reflexes, is mediated by the central nucleus. By contrast, recent evidence from appetitive conditioning studies suggests that the basolateral and central nuclei operate in parallel to mediate distinct incentive processes: the basolateral nucleus encodes emotional events with reference to their particular sensory-specific features, whereas the central nucleus encodes their more general motivational or affective significance. Given that there is little if any direct behavioral evidence for the serial model, we suggest that more attention should be given to the claims of the parallel view.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motivation*
  • Reward