Different time courses for learning-related changes in amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex

Neuron. 2011 Sep 22;71(6):1127-40. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.07.016. Epub 2011 Sep 21.


The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and amygdala are thought to participate in reversal learning, a process in which cue-outcome associations are switched. However, current theories disagree on whether OFC directs reversal learning in the amygdala. Here, we show that during reversal of cues' associations with rewarding and aversive outcomes, neurons that respond preferentially to stimuli predicting aversive events update more quickly in amygdala than OFC; meanwhile, OFC neurons that respond preferentially to reward-predicting stimuli update more quickly than those in the amygdala. After learning, however, OFC consistently differentiates between impending reinforcements with a shorter latency than the amygdala. Finally, analysis of local field potentials (LFPs) reveals a disproportionate influence of OFC on amygdala that emerges after learning. We propose that reversal learning is supported by complex interactions between neural circuits spanning the amygdala and OFC, rather than directed by any single structure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Cues
  • Electrophysiology
  • Haplorhini
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Reversal Learning / physiology*
  • Time Factors