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Involvement of the orbitofrontal cortex, basolateral amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex in decision-making processes, in rats

Grant number: 11/07804-2
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): August 01, 2011
Effective date (End): August 31, 2014
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Psychology - Physiological Psychology
Principal Investigator:Gilberto Fernando Xavier
Grantee:Cyrus Antônio Villas Boas
Host Institution: Instituto de Biociências (IB). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


The most influential theories on the function of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) suggest that this structure is an association cortex, responsible for integration of information received from other parts of the brain. This would implicate in direct participation of the PFC in working memory and attentional processes. Given this context, hodological and neurophysiological studies suggest that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) would be responsible for the integration of sensory, motivational and affective aspects, while the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), which is directly connected to the OFC, would have a key role in encoding emotional stimuli from the amygdala.It is well accepted that the processing of these aspects of information is crucial for decision-making processes, given the fact that this expression of behavior requires an evaluation of the environment in terms of comparing novel situation to previous experiences, as well as processing the balance between costs, outcomes and reward values.In order to test these hypotheses, rats with selective lesions to the vmPFC were subjected to the elevated plus maze (EPM) to evaluate anxiety and conditioned fear in the test retest paradigm. Animal were also tested in a spatial reference memory and a working memory tasks in the Morris water maze. Another group of rats had multi-electrode arrays chronically implanted in the OFC for the evaluation of the neuronal activity during a decision-making task, in which the animals had to choose between a small reward of one chocolate pellet immediately and a large reward of four chocolate pellets after varying delays.The results of the EPM show that animals with lesion to the vmPFC differ from control animals by showing diminished time evaluating risk in the second exposure to the EPM, without damage to locomotor activity, memory and anxiety levels. In the reference spatial memory task in the water maze, after extensive training searching for the hidden platform in the same location, lesioned animals persisted searching for the platform in that particular location after it was removed (probe test). However, in the working memory task, in which the platform is presented in a different location each day, lesioned animals did not differ from control animals. In the decision-making task, differential electrophysiological activity in OFC neurons was observed, particularly in the moment of the task in which the animal was required to perform the choice between rewards.Together, these results suggest that the vmPFC is related to behavioral flexibility and decision-making, possibly acting together with the OFC, which neuronal activity suggests participation in decision-making processes. (AU)

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Academic Publications
(References retrieved automatically from State of São Paulo Research Institutions)
BOAS, Cyrus Antônio Villas. Behavioral and electrophysiological evaluation of the prefrontal cortex activity in decision-making processes in rats. 2015. Doctoral Thesis - Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Instituto de Biociências (IBIOC/SB) São Paulo.

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