While the amygdala historically has been implicated in emotional stimuli processing, recent data suggest a general role in parceling out the relevance of stimuli, regardless of their emotional properties. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we tested the relevance hypothesis by investigating human amygdala responses to emotionally neutral stimuli while manipulating their relevance. The task was operationalized as highly relevant if a subsequent opportunity to respond for a reward depended on response accuracy of the task, and less relevant if the reward opportunity was independent of task performance. A region of interest analysis revealed bilateral amygdala activations in response to the high relevance condition compared to the low relevance condition. An exploratory whole-brain analysis yielded robust similar results in bilateral ventral striatum. A subsequent functional connectivity analysis demonstrated increased connectivity between amygdala and ventral striatum for the highly relevant stimuli compared to the less relevant stimuli. These findings suggest that the amygdala's processing profile goes beyond detection of emotions per se, and directly support the proposed role in relevance detection. In addition, the findings suggest a close relationship between amygdala and ventral striatal activity when processing relevant stimuli. Thus, the results may indicate that human amygdala modulates ventral striatum activity and subsequent behaviors beyond that observed for emotional cues, to encompass a broader range of relevant stimuli.
- Neurovetenskaper (30105)