Amygdala subsystems and control of feeding behavior by learned cues

Gorica D. Petrovich, Michela Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


A combination of behavioral studies and a neural systems analysis approach has proven fruitful in defining the role of the amygdala complex and associated circuits in fear conditioning. The evidence presented in this chapter suggests that this approach is also informative in the study of other adaptive functions that involve the amygdala. In this chapter we present a novel model to study learning in an appetitive context. Furthermore, we demonstrate that long-recognized connections between the amygdala and the hypothalamus play a crucial role in allowing learning to modulate feeding behavior. In the first part we describe a behavioral model for motivational learning. In this model a cue that acquires motivational properties through pairings with food delivery when an animal is hungry can override satiety and promote eating in sated rats. Next, we present evidence that a specific amygdala subsystem (basolateral area) is responsible for allowing such learned cues to control eating (override satiety and promote eating in sated rats). We also show that basolateral amygdala mediates these actions via connectivity with the lateral hypothalamus. Lastly, we present evidence that the amygdalohypothalamic system is specific for the control of eating by learned motivational cues, as it does not mediate another function that depends on intact basolateral amygdala, namely, the ability of a conditioned cue to support new learning based on its acquired value. Knowledge about neural systems through which food-associated cues specifically control feeding behavior provides a defined model for the study of learning. In addition, this model may be informative for understanding mechanisms of maladaptive aspects of learned control of eating that contribute to eating disorders and more moderate forms of overeating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-262
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 2003


  • Amygdala
  • Eating
  • Feeding behavior
  • Goal-directed behavior
  • Hypothalamus
  • Learning
  • Motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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