The amygdala, emotion and learning

In the 1999 Spearman Medal Lecture Simon Killcross discussed the complex role of this influential part of the brain.
For many years the amygdala has been implicated in emotional processing. More recently its importance to our everyday psychology has been highlighted in the popular science press and in books such as Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio (1994) and the Emotional Brain by Joe LeDoux (1996). Evidence for its importance comes from a wide variety of sources, including cognitive psychology, neuropsychology and behavioural neuroscience. In this article I discuss some recent studies combining contemporary animal learning theory with behavioural neuroscience. These complement studies in normal humans and patient populations to increase our understanding of this vital brain structure. But what exactly is the amygdala?

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