Prefrontal-amygdala circuits in social decision-making

Nat Neurosci. 2021 Jan;24(1):5-18. doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-00738-9. Epub 2020 Nov 9.


An increasing amount of research effort is being directed toward investigating the neural bases of social cognition from a systems neuroscience perspective. Evidence from multiple animal species is beginning to provide a mechanistic understanding of the substrates of social behaviors at multiple levels of neurobiology, ranging from those underlying high-level social constructs in humans and their more rudimentary underpinnings in monkeys to circuit-level and cell-type-specific instantiations of social behaviors in rodents. Here we review literature examining the neural mechanisms of social decision-making in humans, non-human primates and rodents, focusing on the amygdala and the medial and orbital prefrontal cortical regions and their functional interactions. We also discuss how the neuropeptide oxytocin impacts these circuits and their downstream effects on social behaviors. Overall, we conclude that regulated interactions of neuronal activity in the prefrontal-amygdala pathways critically contribute to social decision-making in the brains of primates and rodents.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Primates
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Perception