Neurotoxic lesions of the medial mediodorsal nucleus of the thalamus disrupt reinforcer devaluation effects in rhesus monkeys.
Mitchell AS., Browning PG., Baxter MG.
The mediodorsal thalamus is a major input to the prefrontal cortex and is thought to modulate cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex. Damage to the medial, magnocellular part of the mediodorsal thalamus (MDmc) impairs cognitive functions dependent on prefrontal cortex, including memory. The contribution of MDmc to other aspects of cognition dependent on prefrontal cortex has not been determined. The ability of monkeys to adjust their choice behavior in response to changes in reinforcer value, a capacity impaired by lesions of orbital prefrontal cortex, can be tested in a reinforcer devaluation paradigm. In the present study, rhesus monkeys with bilateral neurotoxic MDmc lesions were tested in the devaluation procedure. Monkeys learned visual discrimination problems in which each rewarded object is reliably paired with one of two different food rewards and then were given choices between pairs of rewarded objects, one associated with each food. Selective satiation of one of the food rewards reduces choices of objects associated with that food in normal monkeys. Monkeys with bilateral neurotoxic lesions of MDmc learned concurrently presented visual discrimination problems as quickly as unoperated control monkeys but showed impaired reinforcer devaluation effects. This finding suggests that the neural circuitry for control of behavioral choice by changes in reinforcer value includes MDmc.