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Neuroscience. 2011 Mar 31;178:123-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.12.038. Epub 2011 Jan 6.

Neonatal amygdala lesions alter responsiveness to objects in juvenile macaques.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.


The amygdala is widely recognized to play a central role in emotional processing. In nonhuman primates, the amygdala appears to be critical for generating appropriate behavioral responses in emotionally salient contexts. One common finding is that macaque monkeys that receive amygdala lesions as adults are behaviorally uninhibited in the presence of potentially dangerous objects. While control animals avoid these objects, amygdala-lesioned animals readily interact with them. Despite a large literature documenting the role of the amygdala in emotional processing in adult rhesus macaques, little research has assessed the role of the amygdala across the macaque neurodevelopmental trajectory. We assessed the behavioral responses of 3-year-old (juvenile) rhesus macaques that received bilateral ibotenic acid lesions of the amygdala or hippocampus at 2 weeks of age. Animals were presented with salient objects known to produce robust fear-related responses in macaques (e.g., snakes and reptile-like objects), mammal-like objects that included animal-like features (e.g., eyes and mouths) but not reptile-like features (e.g., scales), and non-animal objects. The visual complexity of objects was scaled to vary the objects' salience. In contrast to control and hippocampus-lesioned animals, amygdala-lesioned animals were uninhibited in the presence of potentially dangerous objects. They readily retrieved food rewards placed near these objects and physically explored the objects. Furthermore, while control and hippocampus-lesioned animals differentiated between levels of object complexity, amygdala-lesioned animals did not. Taken together, these findings suggest that early damage to the amygdala, like damage sustained during adulthood, permanently compromises emotional processing.

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