Different roles for orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala in a reinforcer devaluation task.
The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and basolateral amygdala (BLA) are critical for using learned representations of outcomes to guide behavior. Neurophysiological findings suggest complementary roles in which the BLA acquires associations between cues and outcomes and the OFC subsequently uses them to guide behavior. Here, we have used a reinforcer devaluation paradigm to test this hypothesis. In this paradigm, rats are first trained to associate a light conditioned stimulus (CS) with a food outcome, and then the food is devalued by pairing it with illness. After this devaluation procedure, responding to the CS is assessed in a single probe session. Previously, we have shown that BLA and OFC lesions made before training do not affect the acquisition of conditioned responding but do impair the sensitivity of that responding to reinforcer devaluation. Rats with such lesions fail to exhibit the spontaneous decrease in conditioned responding to the light cue observed in controls in the probe test. Here, we have extended those findings by showing that performance in the probe test is impaired by OFC lesions made after light-food conditioning but not by BLA lesions made after that training. These findings indicate that the OFC and BLA play different roles in mediating normal goal-directed performance in this, and likely other, settings. The BLA seems critical to forming representations linking cues to the incentive properties of outcomes but not for maintaining these representations in memory, updating them with new information, or for expressing them in behavior. In contrast, the OFC seems essential for one or more of these latter processes.