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Objectives: The amygdala is known to be a key neural structure in many neuropsychiatric disorders. Primarily known for its involvement in fear regulation, the amygdala also plays a critical role in appetitive flexible decisionmaking. Yet, its contribution to the development of flexible goal-directed behavior has not been thoroughly examined.
Design: The current study examined flexible decision-making abilities after neonatal amygdala lesions in nonhuman primates using a behavioral paradigm known to measure the flexible monitoring of goal-directed choices in rodents, monkeys, and humans.
Method: Rhesus monkeys of both sexes were divided into two groups, a sham-operated control group (N=4) and a group with neonatal neurotoxic amygdala lesions (N=5). Animals received the lesions at 1-2 weeks and were tested at both four and six years of age on a concurrent discrimination reinforcer devaluation task.
Results: Although neonatal amygdala damage spared learning stimulus-reward associations, it severely impaired the ability to flexibly shift object choices away from those items associated with devalued food rewards. The results were similar to those obtained in monkeys that had acquired the same lesions in adulthood.
Conclusions: Thus, the amygdala is critical for appetitive decision-making, and provide further evidence of little functional sparing after early amygdala insult. The findings are discussed in relation to other behavioral measures on the same animals and to clinical neuropsychiatric disorders.