Nucleus accumbens core neurons encode value-independent associations necessary for sensory preconditioning. Journal Article uri icon

Overview

abstract

  • Reinforcement-based learning models predict that the strength of association between cues and outcomes is driven by aspects of outcome value. However, animals routinely make associations between contingent stimuli in the world, even if those associations hold no value to the organism. At the neural level, the nucleus accumbens (NAc) is known to encode associative information, but it is not known whether this encoding is specific for value-based information (consistent with reinforcement-based models) or if the NAc additionally plays a more general role in forming predictive associations, independent of outcome value. To test this, we employed a sensory preconditioning (SPC) task where rats initially (Preconditioning) received either contingent pairings of 2 neutral stimuli (e.g., tone [A] and light [X]; "Paired"), or random noncontingent presentations ("Unpaired"). After cue X was subsequently conditioned with food (First-Order Conditioning), the effect of preconditioning was assessed in Phase 3 (Test) by presentations of cue A alone. Electrophysiological recordings from the NAc core showed significant increases in phasic encoding for the stimuli in the Paired (but not Unpaired) condition as well as during test. Further, these effects were only seen in Paired rats that showed successful behavior during test (Good Learners), but not those who did not (Poor Learners) or Unpaired controls. These findings reveal a role for the NAc in the encoding of associative contingencies independent of value, and suggest that this structure also plays a more general role in forming associations necessary for predictive behavior.

publication date

  • October 1, 2014

Full Author List

  • Cerri DH; Saddoris MP; Carelli RM

Other Profiles

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 567

end page

  • 578

volume

  • 128

issue

  • 5