Social decisions require evaluation of costs and benefits to oneself and others. Long associated with emotion and vigilance, the amygdala has recently been implicated in both decision-making and social behavior. The amygdala signals reward and punishment, as well as facial expressions and the gaze of others. Amygdala damage impairs social interactions, and the social neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) influences human social decisions, in part, by altering amygdala function. Here we show in monkeys playing a modified dictator game, in which one individual can donate or withhold rewards from another, that basolateral amygdala (BLA) neurons signaled social preferences both across trials and across days. BLA neurons mirrored the value of rewards delivered to self and others when monkeys were free to choose but not when the computer made choices for them. We also found that focal infusion of OT unilaterally into BLA weakly but significantly increased both the frequency of prosocial decisions and attention to recipients for context-specific prosocial decisions, endorsing the hypothesis that OT regulates social behavior, in part, via amygdala neuromodulation. Our findings demonstrate both neurophysiological and neuroendocrinological connections between primate amygdala and social decisions.
Keywords: amygdala; hierarchical modeling; oxytocin; social decision; value mirroring.