Thalamocortical and corticothalamic pathways differentially contribute to goal-directed behaviors in the rat

Elife. 2018 Feb 6:7:e32517. doi: 10.7554/eLife.32517.


Highly distributed neural circuits are thought to support adaptive decision-making in volatile and complex environments. Notably, the functional interactions between prefrontal and reciprocally connected thalamic nuclei areas may be important when choices are guided by current goal value or action-outcome contingency. We examined the functional involvement of selected thalamocortical and corticothalamic pathways connecting the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) and the mediodorsal thalamus (MD) in the behaving rat. Using a chemogenetic approach to inhibit projection-defined dmPFC and MD neurons during an instrumental learning task, we show that thalamocortical and corticothalamic pathways differentially support goal attributes. Both pathways participate in adaptation to the current goal value, but only thalamocortical neurons are required to integrate current causal relationships. These data indicate that antiparallel flow of information within thalamocortical circuits may convey qualitatively distinct aspects of adaptive decision-making and highlight the importance of the direction of information flow within neural circuits.

Keywords: adaptive decision-making; chemogenetics; instrumental learning; neuroscience; rat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Decision Making
  • Goals*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Thalamus / physiology*

Grants and funding

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.