Distinct Roles for the Amygdala and Orbitofrontal Cortex in Representing the Relative Amount of Expected Reward

Neuron. 2017 Jul 5;95(1):70-77.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.06.012.


The same reward can possess different motivational meaning depending upon its magnitude relative to other rewards. To study the neurophysiological mechanisms mediating assignment of motivational meaning, we recorded the activity of neurons in the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) of monkeys during a Pavlovian task in which the relative amount of liquid reward associated with one conditioned stimulus (CS) was manipulated by changing the reward amount associated with a second CS. Anticipatory licking tracked relative reward magnitude, implying that monkeys integrated information about recent rewards to adjust the motivational meaning of a CS. Upon changes in relative reward magnitude, neural responses to reward-predictive cues updated more rapidly in OFC than amygdala, and activity in OFC but not the amygdala was modulated by recent reward history. These results highlight a distinction between the amygdala and OFC in assessing reward history to support the flexible assignment of motivational meaning to sensory cues.

Keywords: OFC; Pavlovian learning; amygdala; motivation; orbitofrontal cortex; range adaptation; relative reward; reward history.

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / cytology
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Linear Models
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reward*