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Orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala encode expected outcomes during learning

Abstract

Reciprocal connections between the orbitofrontal cortex and the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala may provide a critical circuit for the learning that underlies goal-directed behavior. We examined neural activity in rat orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala during instrumental learning in an olfactory discrimination task. Neurons in both regions fired selectively during the anticipation of rewarding or aversive outcomes. This selective activity emerged early in training, before the rats had learned reliably to avoid the aversive outcome. The results support the concept that the basolateral amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex cooperate to encode information that may be used to guide goal-directed behavior.

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Figure 1: Photomicrographs of histological sections showing the reconstruction of recording sites in representative subjects in (a) OFC and (b) ABL.
Figure 2: Sequence of behaviors in (a) positive go, (b) negative go, and (c) negative no-go trials during acquisition of a go, no-go olfactory discrimination task.
Figure 3: Differential activity during the delay following a go response on pre-criterion trials in a neuron recorded in OFC and a neuron recorded in ABL during two-odor discrimination training.
Figure 4: Contrast in activity on positive and negative go trials during the early (open bars) and late (closed bars) segments of pre-criterion training for a population of neurons selective during the delay in OFC and ABL (see Methods for description of early and late segments and criteria for the analysis).
Figure 5: Activity of the OFC neuron in Fig. 3 on positive go, negative go, and negative no-go trials.

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Acknowledgements

We thank T. Lam for assistance in figure preparation, Dr. M. Burchinal and E. Neebe for statistical consultation. This work was supported by funding from the NIH.

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Correspondence to Geoffrey Schoenbaum.

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Schoenbaum, G., Chiba, A. & Gallagher, M. Orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala encode expected outcomes during learning. Nat Neurosci 1, 155–159 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1038/407

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