Increased Firing to Cues That Predict Low-Value Reward in the Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex


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Abstract

Anatomical, imaging, and lesion work have suggested that medial and lateral aspects of orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) play different roles in reward-guided decision-making, yet few single-neuron recording studies have examined activity in more medial parts of the OFC (mOFC) making it difficult to fully assess its involvement in motivated behavior. Previously, we have shown that neurons in lateral parts of the OFC (lOFC) selectively fire for rewards of different values. In that study, we trained rats to respond to different fluid wells for rewards of different sizes or delivered at different delays. Rats preferred large over small reward, and rewards delivered after short compared with long delays. Here, we recorded from single neurons in rat rostral mOFC as they performed the same task. Similar to the lOFC, activity was attenuated for rewards that were delivered after long delays and was enhanced for delivery of larger rewards. However, unlike lOFC, odor-responsive neurons in the mOFC were more active when cues predicted low-value outcomes. These data suggest that odor-responsive mOFC neurons signal the association between environmental cues and unfavorable outcomes during decision making.

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