Amygdalectomy and ventromedial prefrontal ablation produce similar deficits in food choice and in simple object discrimination learning for an unseen reward

Exp Brain Res. 1991;86(3):617-22. doi: 10.1007/BF00230535.


Cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) with either bilateral amygdalectomy or bilateral ventromedial prefrontal cortical ablations showed abnormal choices between apple, lemon, olive, and meat. Not only did they choose meat or olive more often than normal animals, but also their choices were less consistent from trial to trial than the normal animals' choices were. The same animals were subsequently tested for their ability to learn 2-choice simultaneous visual discriminations between objects which they could suck. The positive object yielded fruit juice, which entered the mouth directly without being seen. Both groups of animals with lesions were severely impaired in this discrimination learning task. The reason why amygdalectomy has little effect on simple object discrimination learning in the Wisconsin General Test Apparatus, we suggest, is that the animal can there associate the visual discriminanda with the visual properties of the food reward, a mechanism which is not available when the reward is unseen. These results add to existing evidence of a close functional relationship between the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and they support the proposal, derived from previous work, that the amygdala is important for associating visual stimuli with the incentive value of reinforcers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Food Preferences / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Reward*