SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • basal ganglia;
  • contingency;
  • goal-directed action;
  • learning;
  • reward

Abstract

Considerable evidence suggests that, in instrumental conditioning, rats learn the relationship between actions and their specific consequences or outcomes. The present study examined the role of the dorsomedial striatum (DMS) in this type of learning after excitotoxic lesions and reversible, muscimol-induced inactivation. In three experiments, rats were first trained to press two levers for distinct outcomes, and then tested after training using a variety of behavioural assays that have been established to detect action-outcome learning. In Experiment 1, pre-training lesions of the posterior DMS abolished the sensitivity of rats' instrumental performance to both outcome devaluation and contingency degradation when tested in extinction, whereas lesions of the anterior DMS had no effect. In Experiment 2, both pre-training and post-training lesions of the posterior DMS were equally effective in reducing the sensitivity of performance both to devaluation and degradation treatments. In Experiment 3, the infusion of muscimol into the posterior DMS selectively abolished sensitivity of performance to devaluation and contingency degradation without impairing the ability of rats to discriminate either the instrumental actions performed or the identity of the earned outcomes. Taken together, these results suggest that the posterior region of the DMS is a crucial neural substrate for the acquisition and expression of action–outcome associations in instrumental conditioning.