To investigate the involvement of dopaminergic projections to the prelimbic and infralimbic cortex in the control of goal-directed responses, a first experiment examined the effect of pretraining 6-OHDA lesions of these cortices. We used outcome devaluation and contingency degradation procedures to separately assess the representation of the outcome as a goal or the encoding of the contingency between the action and its outcome. All groups acquired the instrumental response at a normal rate,indicating that dopaminergic activity in the medial prefrontal cortex is not necessary for the acquisition of instrumental learning. Sham-operated animals showed sensitivity to both outcome devaluation and contingency degradation. Animals with dopaminergic lesions of the prelimbic cortex, but not the infralimbic cortex, failed to adapt their instrumental response to changes in contingency, whereas their response remained sensitive to outcome devaluation. In a second experiment, aimed at determining whether dopamine was specifically needed during contingency changes, we performed microinfusions of the dopamine D1 /D2 receptor antagonist flupenthixol in the prelimbic cortex only before contingency degradation sessions. Animals with infusions of flupenthixol failed to adapt their response to changes in contingency, thus replicating the deficit of animals with dopaminergic lesions in Experiment 1. These results demonstrate that dissociable neurobiological mechanisms support action– outcome relationships and goal representation, dopamine signalinginthe prelimbic cortex being necessary for the former but not the latter.
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience|
|Publication status||Published - 20 May 2009|