Primate Amygdalo-Nigral Pathway for Boosting Oculomotor Action in Motivating Situations

iScience. 2020 Jun 26;23(6):101194. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2020.101194. Epub 2020 May 23.


A primary function of the primate amygdala is to modulate behavior based on emotional cues. To study the underlying neural mechanism, we first inactivated the amygdala locally and temporarily by injecting a GABA agonist. Then, saccadic eye movements and gaze were suppressed only on the contralateral side. Next, we performed optogenetic activation after injecting a viral vector into the amygdala. Optical stimulation in the amygdala excited amygdala neurons, whereas optical stimulation of axon terminals in the substantia nigra pars reticulata inhibited nigra neurons. Optical stimulation in either structure facilitated saccades to the contralateral side. These data suggest that the amygdala controls saccades and gaze through the basal ganglia output to the superior colliculus. Importantly, this amygdala-derived circuit mediates emotional context information, whereas the internal basal ganglia circuit mediates object value information. This finding demonstrates a basic mechanism whereby basal ganglia output can be modulated by other areas conveying distinct information.

Keywords: Behavioral Neuroscience; Neuroanatomy; Neuroscience.