How Bad Do You Want It? Reward Modulation in the Avian Nidopallium Caudolaterale

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The prefrontal cortex plays an important role in reward processing in humans and nonhuman primates. In the current study we examined reward modulation in the single cell activity of the avian analog of the prefrontal cortex, the nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL). Pigeons had to peck at stimuli that represented either no reward, a small reward, or a large reward in a no-choice condition (only one stimulus presented) or a choice condition (two stimuli presented simultaneously). Of the 92 recorded cells, 34 cells showed some form of reward modulation, either during the stimulus presentation or the delay activity preceding the delivery of reward in the no-choice or choice condition. Latencies to peck at the stimulus revealed that the differences in reward amount were behaviorally significant to the pigeons. Moreover, a majority of cells (approximately 70%) showed activity during the actual reward phase. Our results show that cells in the NCL modulate their response as a function of the amount of reward.

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