Neural correlates of variations in event processing during learning in central nucleus of amygdala

Neuron. 2010 Dec 9;68(5):991-1001. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.11.019.


Attention or variations in event processing help drive learning. Lesion studies have implicated the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) in this process, particularly when expected rewards are omitted. However, lesion studies cannot specify how information processing in CeA supports such learning. To address these questions, we recorded CeA neurons in rats performing a task in which rewards were delivered or omitted unexpectedly. We found that activity in CeA neurons increased selectively at the time of omission and declined again with learning. Increased firing correlated with CeA-inactivation sensitive measures of attention. Notably CeA neurons did not fire to the cues or in response to unexpected rewards. These results indicate that CeA contributes to learning in response to reward omission due to a specific role in signaling actual omission rather than a more general involvement in signaling expectancies, errors, or reward value.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Set, Psychology
  • Time Perception / physiology