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Neural architecture of choice behaviour in a concurrent interval schedule


: Dr T. Kalenscher, as above.


Concurrent interval schedules are classic experimental paradigms that are traditionally employed in psychological research on choice behaviour. To analyse the neural basis of choice in a concurrent fixed interval schedule, pigeons were trained to peck on two response keys. Responses were differentially rewarded in key specific short or long time intervals (SI vs. LI). Using tetrodotoxin, we reversibly blocked the neostriatum caudolaterale (NCL, the avian functional equivalent of the prefrontal cortex), avian caudate-putamen and nucleus accumbens to examine their contribution. A detailed analysis of baseline choice behaviour revealed that response distribution and key affinity were determined by cued or time-related expectancy for rewards on the SI key. The pigeons' response frequency increased on the SI key and decreased on the LI key with increasing temporal proximity to the SI reward and pigeons switched to the LI key after reward delivery. Pecking bursts on the LI key were negatively correlated with bursts on the SI key. Neostriatum caudolaterale inactivation did not affect pecking activity per se but interfered with reward-related temporal modulation of pecking frequency, switching pattern and coupling of LI to SI pecks. Blockade of caudate-putamen resulted in a complete behavioural halt, while inactivation of nucleus accumbens diminished operant behaviour without affecting consummatory responses. These data suggest that the NCL is tuned via indirect striato-pallial projections to integrate cued or time-related reward expectancy into a response selection process in order to set, maintain or shift goals. The NCL possibly feeds forward the resulting motor commands to the caudate-putamen for execution.