Choose your path: Divergent basolateral amygdala efferents differentially mediate incentive motivation, flexibility and decision-making

Behav Brain Res. 2021 Jul 9:409:113306. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2021.113306. Epub 2021 Apr 19.


To survive in a complex environment, individuals form associations between environmental stimuli and rewards to organize and optimize reward seeking behaviors. The basolateral amygdala (BLA) uses these learned associations to inform decision-making processes. In this review, we describe functional projections between BLA and its cortical and striatal targets that promote learning and motivational processes central to decision-making. Specifically, we compare and contrast divergent projections from the BLA to the orbitofrontal (OFC) and to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and examine the roles of these pathways in associative learning, value-guided decision-making, choice behaviors, as well as cue and context-driven drug seeking. Finally, we consider how these projections are involved in disorders of motivation, with a focus on Substance Use Disorder.

Keywords: Basolateral amygdala; Behavioral flexibility; Decision-making; Incentive motivation; Nucleus accumbens; Orbitofrontal cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basolateral Nuclear Complex / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*