Inhibition of noradrenergic signalling in rodent orbitofrontal cortex impairs the updating of goal-directed actions

Elife. 2023 Feb 20:12:e81623. doi: 10.7554/eLife.81623.


In a constantly changing environment, organisms must track the current relationship between actions and their specific consequences and use this information to guide decision-making. Such goal-directed behaviour relies on circuits involving cortical and subcortical structures. Notably, a functional heterogeneity exists within the medial prefrontal, insular, and orbitofrontal cortices (OFC) in rodents. The role of the latter in goal-directed behaviour has been debated, but recent data indicate that the ventral and lateral subregions of the OFC are needed to integrate changes in the relationships between actions and their outcomes. Neuromodulatory agents are also crucial components of prefrontal functions and behavioural flexibility might depend upon the noradrenergic modulation of the prefrontal cortex. Therefore, we assessed whether noradrenergic innervation of the OFC plays a role in updating action-outcome relationships in male rats. We used an identity-based reversal task and found that depletion or chemogenetic silencing of noradrenergic inputs within the OFC rendered rats unable to associate new outcomes with previously acquired actions. Silencing of noradrenergic inputs in the prelimbic cortex or depletion of dopaminergic inputs in the OFC did not reproduce this deficit. Together, our results suggest that noradrenergic projections to the OFC are required to update goal-directed actions.

Keywords: decision; locus coeruleus; neuromodulation; neuroscience; noradrenaline; prefrontal cortex; rat; reversal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Goals*
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rodentia*
  • Signal Transduction

Grants and funding

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