Information gained during goal pursuit motivates adaptive behavior. The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) supports adaptive behavior, but how ACC signals are translated into motivational signals remains unclear. Rats with implants in the ACC and ventral tegmental area (VTA), a dopaminergic brain area implicated in motivation, were trained to run laps around a rectangular track for a fixed reward, where each lap varied in physical effort (a 30-cm climbable barrier). Partial directed coherence analysis of local field potentials revealed that ACC theta (4-12 Hz) activity increased as rats entered the barrier-containing region of the maze in trials when the barrier was absent and predicted similar changes in VTA theta activity. This did not occur in effortful, barrier-present trials. These data suggest that the ACC provides a top-down modulating signal to the VTA that can influence the motivation with which to pursue a reward.
Keywords: animal cognition; anterior cingulate cortex; effort; electrophysiology; motivation; relief; ventral tegmental area.
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