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Thesis defense – Juan Carlos Cerpa

16 December 2019 / 14:00 - 16:00

Venue: INCIA – Zone nord Bat 2 2ème étage – salle de réunion

Cortex préfrontal et flexibilité comportementale : implication de la noradrénaline

Juan Carlos Cerpa

Thesis supervisor: Etienne Coutureau

Defense in french


An organism depends for its survival on the ability to take adaptive decisions in an ever-changing environment. These decisions involve several cognitive processes that can be revealed by the study of associative learning processes. Thus, action control has been found to rely on processes that distribute across a network of cerebral structures including prefrontal regions. Prefrontal functions are largely influenced by neuromodulators such as noradrenaline, which is thought to be involved in behavioural flexibility. My Ph.D. project therefore aimed at clarifying the role of noradrenergic modulation of prefrontal cortex regions in adapting a subject’s behaviour to changes in action consequences. In the first chapter, we studied the organization of noradrenergic innervation in the various prefrontal areas, by means of an automated quantification method. In the second chapter, we applied a behavioural protocol requiring flexible learning of the causal relationships between actions and their outcomes. Using this protocol and neurotoxins to deplete prefrontal regions from noradrenergic innervation, we showed that noradrenaline in a specific area, the orbitofrontal cortex, was necessary to action control, in particular to mediate changes in the identity and value of expected outcomes. Comparing this contribution to the role of medial prefrontal cortex on one hand, and of dopaminergic modulation on the other hand, suggests that the role of noradrenergic neuromodulation is both region- and mediator-specific. In the third chapter, we developed a series of chemogenetic approaches to identify the temporal involvement of noradrenaline in the various phases of the task, and we identified some of the limits of these approaches. This work confirms the importance of neuromodulation in prefrontal cortical function and furthers our understanding of cerebral circuits involved in action control and adaptation to a changing environment.

Keywords : Prefrontal cortex ; Orbitofrontal cortex ; Noradrenaline ; Locus Cœruleus ; Action ; Adaptation ; Instrumental learning ; Rat


Cerpa JC, Marchand A.R*, Coutureau E* – Distinct Regional Patterns in Noradrenergic Innervation of the Rat Prefrontal Cortex, Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy (2019), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jchemneu.2019.01.002

Parkes S.L, Ravassard P.M, Cerpa JC, Wolff M, Ferreira G, Coutureau E – Insular and Ventrolateral Orbitofrontal Cortices Differentially Contribute to Goal-Directed Behavior in Rodents. Cerebral Cortex, 2018 1-13. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhx132

Cerpa JC, Marchand A.R, Salafranque Y, Pape J-R, Kremer E.J, Coutureau E – Targeting catecholaminergic systems in transgenic rats with a CAV-2 vector harbouring a Cre-dependent DREADD cassette (soumis)

Cerpa JC, Parkes S.L, Dehove M, Faugère A, Wolff A, Marchand A.R, Coutureau E – Noradrenergic control of action-outcome identity reversal in the orbitofrontal cortex (en préparation)


M. Etienne COUTUREAU – CNRS – Université de Bordeaux – Directeur de thèse

M. Sébastien BOURET – CNRS – Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière – Rapporteur

Mme Nicole EL MASSIOUI – CNRS – Université Paris-Saclay – Rapporteur

Mme Sylvie GRANON – Université Paris-Saclay – Examinateur

M. Jean-Louis GUILLOU – Université de Bordeaux – Examinateur

Mme Karine GUILLEM – CNRS – Université de Bordeaux – Examinateur

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16 December 2019
14:00 - 16:00
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