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Eur J Neurosci. 2010 Nov;32(10):1726-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2010.07438.x. Epub 2010 Oct 12.

Dissociable regulation of instrumental action within mouse prefrontal cortex.

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Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06508, USA.


Evaluation of the behavioral 'costs', such as effort expenditure relative to the benefits of obtaining reward, is a major determinant of goal-directed action. Neuroimaging evidence suggests that the human medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) is involved in this calculation and thereby guides goal-directed and choice behavior, but this region's functional significance in rodents is unknown despite extensive work characterizing the role of the lateral OFC in cue-related response inhibition processes. We first tested mice with mOFC lesions in an instrumental reversal task lacking discrete cues signaling reinforcement; here, animals were required to shift responding based on the location of the reinforced aperture within the chamber. Mice with mOFC lesions acquired the reversal but failed to inhibit responding on the previously reinforced aperture, while mice with prelimbic prefrontal cortex lesions were unaffected. When tested on a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement, mice with prelimbic cortical lesions were unable to maintain responding, resulting in declining response levels. Mice with mOFC lesions, by contrast, escalated responding. Neither lesion affected sensitivity to satiety-specific outcome devaluation or non-reinforcement (i.e. extinction), and neither had effects when placed after animals were trained on a progressive ratio response schedule. Lesions of the ventral hippocampus, which projects to the mOFC, resulted in similar response patterns, while lateral OFC and dorsal hippocampus lesions resulted in response acquisition, though not inhibition, deficits in an instrumental reversal. Our findings thus selectively implicate the rodent mOFC in braking reinforced goal-directed action when reinforcement requires the acquisition of novel response contingencies.

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