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Learn Mem. 2007 Jun 11;14(6):446-56. Print 2007 Jun.

Neural coding of reward magnitude in the orbitofrontal cortex of the rat during a five-odor olfactory discrimination task.

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Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, 1105 BA Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The orbitofrontal cortex (OBFc) has been suggested to code the motivational value of environmental stimuli and to use this information for the flexible guidance of goal-directed behavior. To examine whether information regarding reward prediction is quantitatively represented in the rat OBFc, neural activity was recorded during an olfactory discrimination "go"/"no-go" task in which five different odor stimuli were predictive for various amounts of reward or an aversive reinforcer. Neural correlates related to both actual and expected reward magnitude were observed. Responses related to reward expectation occurred during the execution of the behavioral response toward the reward site and within a waiting period prior to reinforcement delivery. About one-half of these neurons demonstrated differential firing toward the different reward sizes. These data provide new and strong evidence that reward expectancy, regardless of reward magnitude, is coded by neurons of the rat OBFc, and are indicative for representation of quantitative information concerning expected reward. Moreover, neural correlates of reward expectancy appear to be distributed across both motor and nonmotor phases of the task.

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