The effects of selective amygdala, orbital frontal cortex or hippocampal formation lesions on reward assessment in nonhuman primates

Eur J Neurosci. 2007 May;25(9):2885-904. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2007.05525.x.


We examined the effects of bilateral amygdaloid, hippocampal or orbital frontal cortex lesions on reward assessment in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). In Experiment 1, basic preferences for foods and inedible nonfoods were measured pre- and postsurgery. None of the lesions produced changes in animals' preferences for palatable foods or raw meat relative to presurgery, although amygdaloid or hippocampal lesions yielded increased preference for inedible nonfoods postsurgery. When the reinforcement value of each animal's highest-preferred food was decreased by selective satiation, only animals with neurotoxic orbital frontal cortex lesions continued to select the sated food. Experiment 2 measured the impact of each lesion on learning 60 concurrent discrimination problems and, then, on flexibly avoiding objects associated with sated foods in favour of objects associated with nonsated foods. None of the lesions affected concurrent discrimination learning, but animals with neurotoxic amygdala or aspiration orbital frontal lesions could not refrain from displacing items covering devalued foods. Only animals with orbital lesions also selected the devalued food beneath the object. The results indicate a functional dissociation for the amygdala and orbital frontal cortex in reward assessment, depending on the type of the reinforcer available (objects vs. food). Finally, this is the first study indicating that the hippocampal formation is involved in the assessment of familiar nonfoods, but not in judging the current value of unconditioned and conditioned reinforcers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Appetite / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Denervation
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Learning Disabilities / pathology
  • Learning Disabilities / physiopathology
  • Macaca mulatta / anatomy & histology
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurotoxins
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reward*


  • Neurotoxins