AUTHORS: Leitão J, Burckhardt M, Vuilleumier P

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 34(5): 729-747, March 2022


Motivation is an important feature of emotion. By driving approach to positive events and promoting avoidance of negative stimuli, motivation drives adaptive actions and goal pursuit. The amygdala has been associated with a variety of affective processes, particularly the appraisal of stimulus valence that is assumed to play a crucial role in the generation of approach and avoidance behaviors. Here, we measured amygdala functional connectivity patterns while participants played a video game manipulating goal conduciveness through the presence of good, neutral, or bad monsters. As expected, good versus bad monsters elicited opposing motivated behaviors, whereby good monsters induced more approach and bad monsters triggered more avoidance. These opposing directional behaviors were paralleled by increased connectivity between the amygdala and medial brain areas, such as the OFC and posterior cingulate, for good relative to bad, and between amygdala and caudate for bad relative to good monsters. Moreover, in both conditions, individual connectivity strength between the amygdala and medial prefrontal regions was positively correlated with brain scores from a latent component representing efficient goal pursuit, which was identified by a partial least squares analysis determining the multivariate association between amygdala connectivity and behavioral motivation indices during gameplay. At the brain level, this latent component highlighted a widespread pattern of amygdala connectivity, including a dorsal frontoparietal network and motor areas. These results suggest that amygdala-medial prefrontal interactions captured the overall subjective relevance of ongoing events, which could consecutively drive the engagement of attentional, executive, and motor circuits necessary for implementing successful goal-pursuit, irrespective of approach or avoidance directions.