Orbitofrontal cortex and representation of incentive value in associative learning

Michela Gallagher, Robert W. McMahan, Geoffrey Schoenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Clinical evidence indicates that damage to ventromedial prefrontal cortex disrupts goal-directed actions that are guided by motivational and emotional factors. As a consequence, patients with such damage characteristically engage in maladaptive behaviors. Other research has shown that neurons in the corresponding orbital region of prefrontal cortex in laboratory animals encode information regarding the incentive properties of goals or expected events. The present study investigates the effect of neurotoxic orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) lesions in the rat on responses that are normally influenced by associations between a conditioned stimulus (CS) and the incentive value of reinforcement. Rats were first trained to associate a visual CS with delivery of food pellets to a food cup. As a consequence of learning, rats approached the food cup during the CS in anticipation of reinforcement. In a second training phase, injection of LiCl followed consumption of the food unconditioned stimulus (US) in the home cage, a procedure used to alter the incentive value of the US. Subsequently, rats were returned to the conditioning chamber, and their responding to the CS in the absence of the food US was tested. Lesions of OFC did not affect either the initial acquisition of a conditioned response to the light CS in the first training phase or taste aversion learning in the second training phase. In the test for devaluation, however, OFC rats exhibited no change in conditioned responding to the visual CS. This outcome contrasts with the behavior of control rats; after devaluation of the US a significant decrease occurred in approach to the food cup during presentation of the CS. The results reveal an inability of a cue to access representational information about the incentive value of associated reinforcement after OFC damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6610-6614
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume19
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 1999

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Keywords

  • Agranular insular
  • Associative learning
  • Devaluation
  • Goal neglect
  • Orbitofrontal
  • Prefrontal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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