Dissociable Roles for the Basolateral Amygdala and Orbitofrontal Cortex in Decision-Making under Risk of Punishment
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Caitlin A. Orsini, Rose T. Trotta, Jennifer L. Bizon and Barry Setlow

University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, Florida

The Journal of Neuroscience

Several neuropsychiatric disorders are associated with abnormal decision-making involving risk of punishment, but the neural basis of this association remains poorly understood. Altered activity in brain systems including the basolateral amygdala (BLA) and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) can accompany these same disorders, and these structures are implicated in some forms of decision-making. The current study investigated the role of the BLA and OFC in decision-making under risk of explicit punishment. Rats were trained in the risky decision-making task (RDT), in which they chose between two levers, one that delivered a small safe reward, and the other that delivered a large reward accompanied by varying risks of footshock punishment. Following training, they received sham or neurotoxic lesions of BLA or OFC, followed by RDT retesting. BLA lesions increased choice of the large risky reward (greater risk-taking) compared to both prelesion performance and sham controls. When reward magnitudes were equated, both BLA lesion and control groups shifted their choice to the safe (no shock) reward lever, indicating that the lesions did not impair punishment sensitivity. In contrast to BLA lesions, OFC lesions significantly decreased risk-taking compared with sham controls, but did not impair discrimination between different reward magnitudes or alter baseline levels of anxiety. Finally, neither lesion significantly affected food-motivated lever pressing under various fixed ratio schedules, indicating that lesion-induced alterations in risk-taking were not secondary to changes in appetitive motivation. Together, these findings indicate distinct roles for the BLA and OFC in decision-making under risk of explicit punishment.

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