Ventromedial prefrontal cortex contributes to performance success by controlling reward-driven arousal representation in amygdala

Noriya Watanabe, Jamil P. Bhanji, Hiroki C. Tanabe, Mauricio R. Delgado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When preparing for a challenging task, potential rewards can cause physiological arousal that may impair performance. In this case, it is important to control reward-driven arousal while preparing for task execution. We recently examined neural representations of physiological arousal and potential reward magnitude during preparation, and found that performance failure was explained by relatively increased reward representation in the left caudate nucleus and arousal representation in the right amygdala (Watanabe, et al., 2019). Here we examine how prefrontal cortex influences the amygdala and caudate to control reward-driven arousal. Ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) exhibited activity that was negatively correlated with trial-wise physiological arousal change, which identified this region as a potential modulator of amygdala and caudate. Next we tested the VMPFC - amygdala - caudate effective network using dynamic causal modeling (Friston et al., 2003). Post-hoc Bayesian model selection (Friston and Penny, 2011) identified a model that best fit data, in which amygdala activation was suppressively controlled by the VMPFC only in success trials. Furthermore, fixed connectivity strength from VMPFC to amygdala explained individual task performance. These findings highlight the role of effective connectivity from VMPFC to amygdala in order to control arousal during preparation for successful performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116136
StatePublished - Nov 15 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • Amygdala
  • Caudate nucleus
  • Dynamic causal modeling
  • Physiological arousal
  • Post-hoc Bayesian model selection
  • Reward
  • Ventromedial prefrontal cortex

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