The pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPTg) is in a pivotal position between the basal ganglia and brainstem: it is able to influence and regulate all levels of basal ganglia and corticostriatal activity as well as being a key component of brainstem reticular and motor control circuitry. Consistent with its anatomical position, the PPTg has previously been shown to process rapid, salient sensory input, is a target for Parkinson's disease treatments and has been implicated in associative learning. We explicitly investigated the role of the posterior pPPTg (pPPTg) in action-outcome processes, where actions are performed with the goal-directed aim of obtaining an anticipated outcome. We assessed rats' sensitivity to degradation of the contingency between actions (lever pressing) and outcomes (food reward) during either inactivation of pPPTg by microinjection of the GABA agonist muscimol or control infusions of saline. In response to the degradation of contingency between lever press and food reward, saline treated rats rapidly reduced rates of lever pressing whereas muscimol treated rats (pPPTg inactivation) maintained previous lever pressing rates. In contrast, when the contingency between lever press and food reward was unchanged saline and muscimol treated rats maintained their previous rates of lever pressing. This shows that the pPPTg is critically required for updating associations between actions and outcomes, but not in the continued performance of previously learned associations. These results are consistent with a role for the PPTg in 'higher-order' associative learning and are the first to demonstrate a brainstem role in action-outcome learning. (C) 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
- basal ganglia
- contingency degradation