Dissociable roles of the medial prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens core in goal-directed actions for differential reward magnitude

  • Gill T
  • Castaneda P
  • Janak P
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Abstract

The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and nucleus accumbens (NAc) are 2 structures within a larger corticolimbic network mediating goal-directed actions, especially when the procurement of different goals is sensitive to impulsive tendencies. The present study investigated the role of these structures in goal-directed action for differential reward by training rats to respond for sucrose reward at a nosepoke operandum such that longer duration nosepokes (up to 2 s) resulted in correspondingly larger volumes of reward. After 16 weeks of training, neurotoxic lesions of either the mPFC or the NAc-core were performed, followed by reassessment of sustained response behavior. Lesions of mPFC increased choice impulsivity by shifting responding away from large rewards toward rewards of smaller sizes. The total volume of reward earned remained unchanged, thereby dissociating the lesion effects on response parameters from overall motivation for reward. In contrast, NAc-core lesions decreased the total amount of responding and total volume of reward earned without altering choice impulsivity across differing nosepoke durations and reward sizes. These results suggest that the mPFC mediates the ability to maintain behavioral responding over longer durations for larger magnitude rewards, while the NAc-core mediates the initiation of responding, perhaps by affecting motivational drive, independent of reward magnitude.

Author-supplied keywords

  • accumbens
  • choice impulsivity
  • decision making
  • prefrontal
  • sustained response

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