Bachevalier, J., (2000) The amygdala, social cognition, and autism. The Amygdala: A Functional Analysis. Oxford University Press.
The regulation of social cognition is orchestrated by a multitude of interconnected structures of which the amygdala is one important constituent. This chapter reviews significant amount of research in monkeys and humans, using different approaches, demonstrating that the amygdala decodes and integrates perceptual features from other individuals and allows the subject to act and adjust its behavioral responses according to the emotional and social context of a particular event. The role of the amygdala in social cognition in adult subjects implies that this brain structure must also be crucial for the emergence of affective states and the formation and maintenance of social bonds during the developmental period in primates. The data in this area are meager but indicate that the amygdala has an early ontogenetic maturation, but its connections with other brain regions continue to be refined after birth, supporting the progressive development of affective responses in primates. Finally, the severe and persistent changes in emotional responses and social behavior found after early damage to the amygdala together with recent evidence for the involvement of the amygdala and related structures in autism stress the urgent need to initiate many more developmental studies in primates to begin appreciating the role of the amygdala and other related brain regions early in life for the achievement of well-adapted social skills in adulthood. Such data may, in turn, provide progress in understanding the causes of developmental psychopathological disorders, such as autism.