Multidimensional processing in the amygdala

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2020 Oct;21(10):565-575. doi: 10.1038/s41583-020-0350-y. Epub 2020 Aug 24.


Brain-wide circuits that coordinate affective and social behaviours intersect in the amygdala. Consequently, amygdala lesions cause a heterogeneous array of social and non-social deficits. Social behaviours are not localized to subdivisions of the amygdala even though the inputs and outputs that carry social signals are anatomically restricted to distinct subnuclear regions. This observation may be explained by the multidimensional response properties of the component neurons. Indeed, the multitudes of circuits that converge in the amygdala enlist the same subset of neurons into different ensembles that combine social and non-social elements into high-dimensional representations. These representations may enable flexible, context-dependent social decisions. As such, multidimensional processing may operate in parallel with subcircuits of genetically identical neurons that serve specialized and functionally dissociable functions. When combined, the activity of specialized circuits may grant specificity to social behaviours, whereas multidimensional processing facilitates the flexibility and nuance needed for complex social behaviour.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*