Behavioral triggers of skin conductance responses and their neural correlates in the primate amygdala

April 2009

Abstract

The amygdala plays a crucial role in evaluating the emotional significance of stimuli and in transforming the results of this evaluation into appropriate autonomic responses. Lesion and stimulation studies suggest involvement of the amygdala in the generation of the skin conductance response (SCR), which is an indirect measure of autonomic activity that has been associated with both emotion and attention. It is unclear if this involvement marks an emotional reaction to an external stimulus or sympathetic arousal regardless of its origin. We recorded skin conductance in parallel with single-unit activity from the right amygdala of two rhesus monkeys during a rewarded image viewing task and while the monkeys sat alone in a dimly lit room, drifting in and out of sleep. In both experimental conditions, we found similar SCR-related modulation of activity at the single-unit and neural population level. This suggests that the amygdala contributes to the production or modulation of SCRs regardless of the source of sympathetic arousal.

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