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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2006;30(4):472-96. Epub 2005 Oct 21.

The central extended amygdala network as a proposed circuit underlying reward valuation.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater, WI 53190, USA.


The phenomenon of medial forebrain bundle self-stimulation offers a powerful model of reward-based behavior. In particular, it appears to activate a neural system whose natural function is to compute the survival value or utility of present stimuli and to help orchestrate responses toward those inputs. Although the anatomical identity of this system is as yet unknown, recent descriptions of anatomical macrosystems within the basal forebrain lead to the proposal that it may be largely contained within the central extended amygdala network. This paper reviews decades' worth of behavioral and neurophysiological investigations of brain stimulation reward that support or are at least consistent with this idea. The proposed network circuitry underlying self-stimulation is also placed into the larger context of basal forebrain function, specifically, the role of the ventral striatopallidum in linking motivation to behavior, the role of the amygdala in detecting motivationally significant inputs, and the role of the magnocellular complex in communicating reward information to cortical and hippocampal targets.

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