Kindling of the basolateral or central nucleus of the amygdala increases suboptimal choice in a rat gambling task and increases motor impulsivity in risk-preferring animals

Behav Brain Res. 2021 Feb 1:398:112941. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2020.112941. Epub 2020 Sep 28.


Impairments in decision making under uncertainty, as measured by the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), are observed in persons suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), in which seizures originate in the amygdala and hippocampal formations. Gambling disorder is also more prevalent in this population. Individuals with amygdala damage show similar deficits in decision-making, as do rats with lesions restricted to the basolateral amygdala (BLA) performing an analogous rat gambling task (rGT), yet whether hyperstimulation of the BLA impacts risky decision-making has yet to be demonstrated. We therefore investigated whether kindling of the BLA affected rGT performance. In this task, sugar pellet profits are maximised through consistent selection of options associated with smaller per-trial gains but shorter punishing time-outs. Just as in the IGT, subjects must avoid the risky options, as penalties are disproportionately high despite the higher reward available. Most rats adopt the optimal strategy, but some instead make high numbers of risky, disadvantageous choices. Once stable choice preferences had been established on-task, sixteen male Long Evans rats were implanted unilaterally with a bipolar electrode targeting the BLA and stimulated twice daily until three stage five seizures had been elicited. The electrodes revealed to be nearly evenly places in the BLA and the Central Nucleus of the Amygdala (CeA). Kindling transiently increased choice of the option paired with the smallest reward but also the lowest level of punishment- a risk-averse, but suboptimal, choice. Risk-preferring rats also made more premature responses, a marker of motor impulsivity, and were faster to make a choice, whereas these variables were unaffected in optimal decision-makers. These data suggest epileptiform activity originating within the amygdala can impair choice and promote impulsivity, at least in some individuals.

Keywords: Decision-Making; Gambling disorder; Impulsivity; Kindling; Temporal lobe epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basolateral Nuclear Complex / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Central Amygdaloid Nucleus / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiology*
  • Kindling, Neurologic / physiology*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Risk-Taking*