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The amygdala is part of the brain important for emotional processing, handling stimuli that have either positive or negative associations — the good and the bad. Little is known about how amygdala neurons differentiate or compartmentalize these distinctions. Here, Kay Tye and colleagues identify the basolateral amygdala (BLA) as a site of divergence for circuits mediating positive and negative emotional or motivational responses. In studies in mice they find that neurons in the BLA projecting to fear or reward circuits undergo opposing changes in synaptic strength following fear or reward conditioning. Selective activation of neural populations causes, respectively, either negative or positive reinforcement. Transcriptome analysis reveals candidate genes that may mediate these functional differences. Cover art: Insil Choi.