Research into the structure and function of the basal forebrain macrostructure called the extended amygdala (EA) has recently seen considerable growth. This paper reviews that work, with the objectives of identifying underlying themes and developing a common goal towards which investigators of EA function might work. The paper begins with a brief review of the structure and the ontological and phylogenetic origins of the EA. It continues with a review of research into the role of the EA in both aversive and appetitive states, noting that these two seemingly disparate avenues of research converge on the concept of reinforcement – either negative or positive – of adaptive responding. These reviews lead to a proposal as to where the EA may fit in the organization of the basal forebrain, and an invitation to investigators to place their findings in a unifying conceptual framework of the EA as a collection of neural ensembles that mediate adaptive responding.