Corticostriatal Suppression of Appetitive Pavlovian Conditioned Responding.J Neurosci. 2022 02 02; 42(5):834-849.JN
The capacity to suppress learned responses is essential for animals to adapt in dynamic environments. Extinction is a process by which animals learn to suppress conditioned responding when an expected outcome is omitted. The infralimbic (IL) cortex to nucleus accumbens shell (NAcS) neural circuit is implicated in suppressing conditioned responding after extinction, especially in the context of operant cocaine-seeking behavior. However, the role of the IL-to-NAcS neural circuit in the extinction of responding to appetitive Pavlovian cues is unknown, and the psychological mechanisms involved in response suppression following extinction are unclear. We trained male Long Evans rats to associate a 10 s auditory conditioned stimulus (CS; 14 trials per session) with a sucrose unconditioned stimulus (US; 0.2 ml per CS) in a specific context, and then following extinction in a different context, precipitated a renewal of CS responding by presenting the CS alone in the original Pavlovian conditioning context. Unilateral, optogenetic stimulation of the IL-to-NAcS circuit selectively during CS trials suppressed renewal. In a separate experiment, IL-to-NAcS stimulation suppressed CS responding regardless of prior extinction and impaired extinction retrieval. Finally, IL-to-NAcS stimulation during the CS did not suppress the acquisition of Pavlovian conditioning but was required for the subsequent expression of CS responding. These results are consistent with multiple studies showing that the IL-to-NAcS neural circuit is involved in the suppression of operant cocaine-seeking, extending these findings to appetitive Pavlovian cues. The suppression of appetitive Pavlovian responding following IL-to-NAcS circuit stimulation, however, does not appear to be an extinction-dependent process.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Extinction is a form of inhibitory learning through which animals learn to suppress conditioned responding in the face of nonreinforcement. We investigated the role of the IL cortex inputs to the NAcS in the extinction of responding to appetitive Pavlovian cues and the psychological mechanisms involved in response suppression following extinction. Using in vivo optogenetics, we found that stimulating the IL-to-NAcS neural circuit suppressed context-induced renewal of conditioned responding after extinction. In a separate experiment, stimulating the IL-to-NAcS circuit suppressed conditioned responding in an extinction-independent manner. These findings can be used by future research aimed at understanding how corticostriatal circuits contribute to behavioral flexibility and mental disorders that involve the suppression of learned behaviors.