New perspectives on the neurophysiology of primate amygdala emerging from the study of naturalistic social behaviors

Katalin M. Gothard, Clayton P. Mosher, Prisca E. Zimmerman, Philip T. Putnam, Jeremiah K. Morrow, Andrew J. Fuglevand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


A major challenge of primate neurophysiology, particularly in the domain of social neuroscience, is to adopt more natural behaviors without compromising the ability to relate patterns of neural activity to specific actions or sensory inputs. Traditional approaches have identified neural activity patterns in the amygdala in response to simplified versions of social stimuli such as static images of faces. As a departure from this reduced approach, single images of faces were replaced with arrays of images or videos of conspecifics. These stimuli elicited more natural behaviors and new types of neural responses: (1) attention-gated responses to faces, (2) selective responses to eye contact, and (3) selective responses to touch and somatosensory feedback during the production of facial expressions. An additional advance toward more natural social behaviors in the laboratory was the implementation of dyadic social interactions. Under these conditions, neurons encoded similarly rewards that monkeys delivered to self and to their social partner. These findings reinforce the value of bringing natural, ethologically valid, behavioral tasks under neurophysiological scrutiny. WIREs Cogn Sci 2018, 9:e1449. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1449. This article is categorized under: Psychology > Emotion and Motivation Neuroscience > Cognition Neuroscience > Physiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1449
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Psychology


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