The pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPTg) is in a key position to participate in operant reinforcement via its connections with the corticostriatal architecture and the medial reticular formation. Indeed, previous work has demonstrated that rats bearing lesions of the whole PPTg are impaired when learning to make two bar presses for amphetamine reinforcement. Anterior and posterior portions of the PPTg make different anatomical connections, including preferential projections by the anterior PPTg to substantia nigra pars compacta dopamine neurons and by the posterior PPTg to ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons. We wanted to assess the effects of anterior and posterior PPTg ibotenate lesions on rats learning simple and more complex schedules of natural reinforcement. We trained rats with lesions to the anterior PPTg (n = 11) and the posterior PPTg (n = 5) [and appropriate controls (n = 15)] to bar press for food on a variety of fixed-ratio and variable-ratio reinforcement schedules and then during extinction. We found that posterior PPTg-lesioned rats bar pressed at lower rates, were slower to learn to bar press, and often had deficits characteristic of impaired learning and/or motivation. In contrast, anterior PPTg-lesioned rats learned to bar press for reinforcement at normal rates. However, they made errors of perseveration and anticipation throughout many schedules, and pressed at a higher rate than controls during extinction, deficits best characterized as reflecting disorganized response control. Together, these data suggest that the anterior PPTg and posterior PPTg (and their related circuits) contribute differently to reinforcement learning, incentive motivation, and response control, processes that are considered to malfunction in drug addiction.
- excitatory amino acid agonists
- ibotenic acid
- pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus