Inhibition of noradrenergic signaling in rodent orbitofrontal cortex impairs the updating of goal-directed actions
eLife. 2023-02-20; 12:
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In a constantly changing environment, organisms must track the current relationship between actions and their specific consequences and use this information to guide decision-making. Such goal-directed behavior relies on circuits involving cortical and subcortical structures. Notably, a functional heterogeneity exists within the medial prefrontal, insular, and orbitofrontal cortices (OFC) in rodents. The role of the latter in goal-directed behavior has been debated, but recent data indicate that the ventral and lateral subregions of the OFC are needed to integrate changes in the relationships between actions and their outcomes. Neuromodulatory agents are also crucial components of prefrontal functions and behavioral flexibility might depend upon the noradrenergic modulation of the prefrontal cortex. Therefore, we assessed whether noradrenergic innervation of the OFC plays a role in updating action-outcome relationships in male rats. We used an identity-based reversal task and found that depletion or chemogenetic silencing of noradrenergic inputs within the OFC rendered rats unable to associate new outcomes with previously acquired actions. Silencing of noradrenergic inputs in the prelimbic cortex or depletion of dopaminergic inputs in the OFC did not reproduce this deficit. Together, our results suggest that noradrenergic projections to the OFC are required to update goal-directed actions.