Thalamic control of dorsomedial striatum regulates internal state to guide goal-directed action selection

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Journal Article
Journal of Neuroscience, 2017, 37 (13), pp. 3721 - 3733
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© 2017 the authors. We (Bradfield et al., 2013) have demonstrated previously that parafascicular thalamic nucleus (PF)-controlled neurons in the posterior dorsomedial striatum (pDMS) are critical for interlacing new and existing action–outcome contingencies to control goal-directed action. Based on these findings, it was suggested that animals with a dysfunctional PF–pDMS pathway might suffer a deficit in creating or retrieving internal contexts or “states” on which such information could become conditional. To assess this hypothesis more directly, rats were given a disconnection treatment using contralateral cytotoxic lesions of the PF and pDMS (Group CONTRA) or ipsilateral control lesions (Group IPSI) and trained to press a right and left lever for sucrose and pellet outcomes, after which these contingencies were reversed. The rats were then given an outcome devaluation test (all experiments) and a test of outcome-specific reinstatement (Experi-ments 1 and 3). We found that devaluation performance was intact for both groups after training of initial contingencies, but impaired for Group CONTRA after reversal. However, performance was restored by additional reversal training. Furthermore, when tested a second time after reversal training, rats in both groups demonstrated responding in accordance with the original contingencies, providing direct evidence of modulation of action selection by state. Finally, we found that external context could substitute for internal state and so could rescue responding in Group CONTRA, but only in the reinstatement test. Together, these findings suggest that animals use internal state information to guide action selection and that this information is modulated by the PF–pDMS pathway.
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