Guidance of instrumental behavior under reversal conditions requires dopamine D1 and D2 receptor activation in the orbitofrontal cortex

Neuroscience. 2008 Jul 17;154(4):1195-204. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.04.046. Epub 2008 May 2.


The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) plays a critical role in learning a reversal of stimulus-reward contingencies. Dopamine (DA) neurons probably support reversal learning by emitting prediction error signals that indicate the discrepancy between the actually received reward and its prediction. However, the role of DA receptor-mediated signaling in the OFC to adapt behavior to changing stimulus-reward contingencies is largely unknown. Here we examined the effects of a selective D1 or D2 receptor blockade in the OFC on learning a reversal of previously acquired stimulus-reward magnitude contingencies. Rats were trained on a reaction time (RT) task demanding conditioned lever release with discriminative visual stimuli signaling in advance the upcoming reward magnitude (one or five food pellets). After acquisition, RTs were guided by stimulus-associated reward magnitudes, i.e. RTs of responses were significantly shorter for expected high versus low reward. Thereafter, stimulus-reward magnitude contingencies were reversed and learning was tested under reversal conditions for three blocks after pre-trial infusions of the selective D1 or D2 receptor antagonists R(+)-7-chloro-8-hydroxy-3-methyl-1-phenyl-2,3,4,5-tetrahydro-1H-3-benzazepinhydrochloride (SCH23390), eticlopride, or vehicle. For comparisons, we included intra-OFC infusions of the selective N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist AP5. Results revealed that in animals subjected to intra-OFC infusions of SCH23390 or eticlopride learning a reversal of previously acquired stimulus reward-magnitude contingencies was impaired. Thus, in a visual discrimination task as used here, D1 and D2 receptor-mediated signaling in the OFC seems to be necessary to update the reward-predictive significance of stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Dopamine Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Frontal Lobe / drug effects
  • Frontal Lobe / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Reaction Time
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Reward


  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate