Differential contribution of hippocampal circuits to appetitive and consummatory behaviors during operant conditioning of behaving mice

J Neurosci. 2013 Feb 6;33(6):2293-304. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1013-12.2013.


Operant conditioning is a type of associative learning involving different and complex sensorimotor and cognitive processes. Because the hippocampus has been related to some motor and cognitive functions involved in this type of learning (such as object recognition, spatial orientation, and associative learning tasks), we decided to study in behaving mice the putative changes in strength taking place at the hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapses during the acquisition and performance of an operant conditioning task. Mice were chronically implanted with stimulating electrodes in the Schaffer collaterals and with recording electrodes in the hippocampal CA1 area and trained to an operant task using a fixed-ratio (1:1) schedule. We recorded the field EPSPs (fEPSPs) evoked at the CA3-CA1 synapse during the performance of appetitive (going to the lever, lever press) and consummatory (going to the feeder, eating) behaviors. In addition, we recorded the local field potential activity of the CA1 area during similar behavioral displays. fEPSPs evoked at the CA3-CA1 synapse presented larger amplitudes for appetitive than for consummatory behaviors. This differential change in synaptic strength took place in relation to the learning process, depending mainly on the moment in which mice reached the selected criterion. Thus, selective changes in CA3-CA1 synaptic strength were dependent on both the behavior display and the learning stage. In addition, significant changes in theta band power peaks and their corresponding discrete frequencies were noticed during these behaviors across the sequence of events characterizing this type of associative learning but not during the acquisition process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Consummatory Behavior / physiology*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*