Certain goal-directed behaviors depend critically upon interactions between orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and basolateral amygdala (ABL). Here we describe direct neurophysiological evidence of this cooperative function. We recorded from OFC in intact and ABL-lesioned rats learning odor discrimination problems. As rats learned these problems, we found that lesioned rats exhibited marked changes in the information represented in OFC during odor cue sampling. Lesioned rats had fewer cue-selective neurons in OFC after learning; the cue-selective population in lesioned rats did not include neurons that were also responsive in anticipation of the predicted outcome; and the cue-activated representations that remained in lesioned rats were less associative and more often bound to cue identity. The results provide a neural substrate for representing acquired value and features of the predicted outcome during cue sampling, disruption of which could account for deficits in goal-directed behavior after damage to this system.
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