Role of Central Serotonin in Anticipation of Rewarding and Punishing Outcomes: Effects of Selective Amygdala or Orbitofrontal 5-HT Depletion.


Understanding the role of serotonin (or 5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) in aversive processing has been hampered by the contradictory findings, across studies, of increased sensitivity to punishment in terms of subsequent response choice but decreased sensitivity to punishment-induced response suppression following gross depletion of central 5-HT. To address this apparent discrepancy, the present study determined whether both effects could be found in the same animals by performing localized 5-HT depletions in the amygdala or orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) of a New World monkey, the common marmoset. 5-HT depletion in the amygdala impaired response choice on a probabilistic visual discrimination task by increasing the effectiveness of misleading, or false, punishment and reward, and decreased response suppression in a variable interval test of punishment sensitivity that employed the same reward and punisher. 5-HT depletion in the OFC also disrupted probabilistic discrimination learning and decreased response suppression. Computational modeling of behavior on the discrimination task showed that the lesions reduced reinforcement sensitivity. A novel, unitary account of the findings in terms of the causal role of 5-HT in the anticipation of both negative and positive motivational outcomes is proposed and discussed in relation to current theories of 5-HT function and our understanding of mood and anxiety disorders.