Frustrative nonreward: Detailed c-Fos expression patterns in the amygdala after consummatory successive negative contrast

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2024 May 28:213:107942. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2024.107942. Online ahead of print.


The amygdala has been implicated in frustrative nonreward induced by unexpected reward downshifts, using paradigms like consummatory successive negative contrast (cSNC). However, existing evidence comes from experiments involving the central and basolateral nuclei on a broad level. Moreover, whether the amygdala's involvement in reward downshift requires a cSNC effect (i.e., greater suppression in downshifted animals than in unshifted controls) or just consummatory suppression without a cSNC effect, remains unclear. Three groups were exposed to (1) a large reward disparity leading to a cSNC effect (32-to-2% sucrose), (2) a small reward disparity involving consummatory suppression in the absence of a cSNC effect (8-to-2% sucrose), and (3) an unshifted control (2% sucrose). Brains obtained after the first reward downshift session were processed for c-Fos expression, a protein often used as a marker for neural activation. c-Fos-positive cells were counted in the anterior, medial, and posterior portions (A/P axis) of ten regions of the rat basolateral, central, and medial amygdala. c-Fos expression was higher in 32-to-2% sucrose downshift animals than in the other two groups in four regions: the anterior and the medial lateral basal amygdala, the medial capsular central amygdala, and the anterior anterio-ventral medial amygdala. None of the areas exhibited differential c-Fos expression between the 8-to-2% sucrose downshift and the unshifted conditions. Thus, amygdala activation requires exposure to a substantial reward disparity. This approach has identified, for the first time, specific amygdala areas relevant to understand the cSNC effect, suggesting follow-up experiments aimed at testing the function of these regions in reward downshift.

Keywords: Amygdala; Consummatory successive negative contrast; Reward disparity; Reward downshift; c-Fos expression.