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Post-training depletions of basolateral amygdala serotonin fail to disrupt discrimination, retention, or reversal learning.

  • Author(s): Ochoa, Jesus G
  • Stolyarova, Alexandra
  • Kaur, Amandeep
  • Hart, Evan E
  • Bugarin, Amador
  • Izquierdo, Alicia
  • et al.
Abstract

In goal-directed pursuits, the basolateral amygdala (BLA) is critical in learning about changes in the value of rewards. BLA-lesioned rats show enhanced reversal learning, a task employed to measure the flexibility of response to changes in reward. Similarly, there is a trend for enhanced discrimination learning, suggesting that BLA may modulate formation of stimulus-reward associations. There is a parallel literature on the importance of serotonin (5HT) in new stimulus-reward and reversal learning. Recent postulations implicate 5HT in learning from punishment. Whereas, dopaminergic involvement is critical in behavioral activation and reinforcement, 5HT may be most critical for aversive processing and behavioral inhibition, complementary cognitive processes. Given these findings, a 5HT-mediated mechanism in BLA may mediate the facilitated learning observed previously. The present study investigated the effects of selective 5HT lesions in BLA using 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine (5,7-DHT) vs. infusions of saline (Sham) on discrimination, retention, and deterministic reversal learning. Rats were required to reach an 85% correct pairwise discrimination and single reversal criterion prior to surgery. Postoperatively, rats were then tested on the (1) retention of the pretreatment discrimination pair, (2) discrimination of a novel pair, and (3) reversal learning performance. We found statistically comparable preoperative learning rates between groups, intact postoperative retention, and unaltered novel discrimination and reversal learning in 5,7-DHT rats. These findings suggest that 5HT in BLA is not required for formation and flexible adjustment of new stimulus-reward associations when the strategy to efficiently solve the task has already been learned. Given the complementary role of orbitofrontal cortex in reward learning and its interconnectivity with BLA, these findings add to the list of dissociable mechanisms for BLA and orbitofrontal cortex in reward learning.

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