Two learning mechanisms contribute to decision-making: goal-directed actions and the "habit" system, by which actionoutcome and stimulus-response associations are formed, respectively. Rodent lesion studies and human neuroimaging have implicated both the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in the neural basis of contingency learning, a critical component of goal-directed actions, though some published findings are conflicting.We sought to reconcile the existing literature by comparing the effects of excitotoxic lesions of the perigenual anterior cingulate cortex (pgACC), a region of the mPFC, and OFC on contingency learning in the marmoset monkey using a touchscreen-based paradigm, in which the contingent relationship between one of a pair of actions and its outcomewas degraded selectively. Both the pgACC and OFC lesion groups were insensitive to the contingency degradation, whereas the control group demonstrated selectively higher performance of the nondegraded action when compared with the degraded action. These findings suggest the pgACC and OFC are both necessary for normal contingency learning and therefore goal-directed behavior.
Jackson, S. A. W., Horst, N. K., Pears, A., Robbins, T. W., & Roberts, A. C. (2016). Role of the perigenual anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal cortex in contingency learning in the marmoset. Cerebral Cortex, 26(7), 3273–3284. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhw067