Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex Regulates Instrumental Conditioned Punishment, but not Pavlovian Conditioned Fear

Oxford University Press (OUP)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Cerebral Cortex Communications, 2020, 1, (1), pp. 1-13
Issue Date:
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Abstract Bidirectionally aberrant medial orbitofrontal cortical (mOFC) activity has been consistently linked with compulsive disorders and related behaviors. Although rodent studies have established a causal link between mOFC excitation and compulsive-like actions, no such link has been made with mOFC inhibition. Here we use excitotoxic lesions of mOFC to investigate its role in sensitivity to punishment; a core characteristic of many compulsive disorders. In our first experiment, we demonstrated that mOFC lesions prevented rats from learning to avoid a lever that was punished with a stimulus that co-terminated with footshock. Our second experiment demonstrated that retrieval of punishment learning is also somewhat mOFC-dependent, as lesions prevented the extended retrieval of punishment contingencies relative to shams. In contrast, mOFC lesions did not prevent rats from re-acquiring the ability to avoid a punished lever when it was learned prior to lesions being administered. In both experiments, Pavlovian fear conditioning to the stimulus was intact for all animals. Together, these results reveal that the mOFC regulates punishment learning and retrieval in a manner that is separate from any role in Pavlovian fear conditioning. These results imply that aberrant mOFC activity may contribute to the punishment insensitivity that is observed across multiple compulsive disorders.
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