Acquisition of specific response–outcome associations requires NMDA receptor activation in the basolateral amygdala but not in the insular cortex

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Abstract

The basolateral amygdala (BLA) and the gustatory region of the insular cortex (IC) are required for the encoding and retrieval of outcome value. Here, we examined if these regions are also necessary to learn associations between actions and their outcomes. Hungry rats were first trained to press two levers for a common outcome. Next, specific response–outcome (R–O) associations were introduced such that each response now earned a distinct food outcome. Prior to each specific R–O training session, rats received a bilateral infusion of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, DL-APV, into either the BLA or the IC. One of the two outcomes was then devalued immediately prior to a choice test. Inhibition of NMDA receptor activity in the BLA, but not the IC, during the acquisition of specific R–O associations abolished selective devaluation. These results indicate that the BLA is critical for learning the association between actions and their specific consequences.

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