Münster et al., 2020, CCC, "Role of the Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex and Ventral Tegmental Area in Effort-Related Responding"

January 7, 2021 / Angeline Votteler


The posterior subdivision of the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC-p) mediates the willingness to expend effort to reach a selected goal. However, the neural circuitry through which the mOFC-p modulates effort-related function is as yet unknown. The mOFC-p projects prominently to the posterior ventral tegmental area (pVTA). Therefore, we analyzed the role of the mOFC-p and interactions with the pVTA in effort-related responding using a combination of behavioral, pharmacological, and neural circuit analysis methods in rats. Pharmacological inhibition of the mOFC-p was found to increase lever pressing for food under a progressive ratio (PR) schedule of reinforcement. These findings provide further support for a modulation of effort-related function by the mOFC-p. Then, we investigated effects of disconnecting the mOFC-p and pVTA on PR responding using unilateral pharmacological inhibition of both areas. This asymmetric intervention was also found to increase PR responding suggesting that the mOFC-p controls effort-related function through interactions with the pVTA. Possibly, a reduced excitatory mOFC-p drive on pVTA gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic relays disinhibits VTA dopamine neurons which are known to support PR responding. Collectively, our findings suggest that the mOFC-p and pVTA are key components of a neural circuit mediating the willingness to expend effort to reach a goal.

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