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J Neurosci. 2017 Aug 30;37(35):8374-8384. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0486-17.2017. Epub 2017 Jul 25.

Basolateral Amygdala to Orbitofrontal Cortex Projections Enable Cue-Triggered Reward Expectations.

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Department of Psychology and.
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, David Geffen School of Medicine, and.
Brain Research Institute, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095.
Department of Psychology and


To make an appropriate decision, one must anticipate potential future rewarding events, even when they are not readily observable. These expectations are generated by using observable information (e.g., stimuli or available actions) to retrieve often quite detailed memories of available rewards. The basolateral amygdala (BLA) and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) are two reciprocally connected key nodes in the circuitry supporting such outcome-guided behaviors. But there is much unknown about the contribution of this circuit to decision making, and almost nothing known about the whether any contribution is via direct, monosynaptic projections, or the direction of information transfer. Therefore, here we used designer receptor-mediated inactivation of OFC→BLA or BLA→OFC projections to evaluate their respective contributions to outcome-guided behaviors in rats. Inactivation of BLA terminals in the OFC, but not OFC terminals in the BLA, disrupted the selective motivating influence of cue-triggered reward representations over reward-seeking decisions as assayed by Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer. BLA→OFC projections were also required when a cued reward representation was used to modify Pavlovian conditional goal-approach responses according to the reward's current value. These projections were not necessary when actions were guided by reward expectations generated based on learned action-reward contingencies, or when rewards themselves, rather than stored memories, directed action. These data demonstrate that BLA→OFC projections enable the cue-triggered reward expectations that can motivate the execution of specific action plans and allow adaptive conditional responding.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Deficits anticipating potential future rewarding events are associated with many psychiatric diseases. Presently, we know little about the neural circuits supporting such reward expectation. Here we show that basolateral amygdala to orbitofrontal cortex projections are required for expectations of specific available rewards to influence reward seeking and decision making. The necessity of these projections was limited to situations in which expectations were elicited by reward-predictive cues. These projections therefore facilitate adaptive behavior by enabling the orbitofrontal cortex to use environmental stimuli to generate expectations of potential future rewarding events.


DREADD; Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer; chemogenetics; devaluation; hM4Di; reinstatement

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