The titis study identifies the brain region that relates actions to their outcomes

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Researchers have discovered a specific brain region underlying “goal-oriented behavior,” that is, when we consciously do something with a specific goal in mind, for example going to stores to buy food.

The study, published today in the journal Neuron, found that titian monkeys could no longer make an association between their behavior and a particular outcome when a region of their brain called the anterior cingulate cortex was temporarily extinguished.

This finding is important because in OCD and addiction are believed to be the result of deficiencies in the “goal-oriented system” in the brain. Under these conditions, obsessions or compulsive behaviors such as drug seeking may reflect an alternative habit-based system in the brain in which behaviors are not properly related to their outcomes.

It also sheds more light on the behavior of healthy people in a goal-oriented way, which is needed to respond to changing environments and goals.

“We’ve identified the very specific region of the brain involved in goal-oriented behavior. When we temporarily disabled it, the behavior became more common, like when we go on autopilot,” Lisa Duan told the Department of Psychology. Cambridge University, first author of the report.

Titis were used because their brains share important similarities with human brains and it is possible to manipulate specific regions of their brains to understand the causal effects.

In the experiment, puppies were first given goal-oriented behavior: when they touched a colored cross when it appeared on a touch screen, they were rewarded with their favorite juice to drink. But this connection between action and reward was randomly disconnected, so that sometimes they received the juice without having to respond to the image. They quickly detected this change and stopped responding to the image, because they saw that they could get juice without doing anything.

Using drugs, the researchers temporarily shut down the including its connections to another brain region called the caudate nucleus. Repeating the experiment, they found that when the connection between touching the cross and receiving juice was randomly detached, the tits did not change their behavior, but continued to touch the cross when it appeared.

This common color cross response was not observed when several other neighboring regions of the prefrontal cortex of the brain were extinguished — which are known to be important for other aspects of decision-making. This shows the specificity of the anterior cingulate for goal-oriented behavior.

A similar effect has been observed in computer testing in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or addiction; when the relationship between an action and an outcome decouples, patients continue to respond as if the connection were still there.

Previous evidence from patients with brain damage and brain imaging in healthy volunteers shows that a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex is involved in goal-oriented behavior. However, the it is a complex structure with many regions and previously the specific part responsible for goal-oriented behavior could not be identified. ground.

“We believe this is the first study to establish specifics circuits that control the targets in primates, whose brains are very similar said Professor Angela Roberts, of the Department of Physiology, Development and Neurosciences at Cambridge University, lead author of the report.

“This is a first step toward identifying suitable molecular targets for future drug treatments or other forms of therapy for devastating mental health disorders such as OCD and addiction,” added Professor Trevor Robbins, of the Department of Psychology. the University of Cambridge, joint lead author of the report.


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More information:
Neuron (2021). DOI: 10.1016 / j.neuron.2021.06.003

Citation: A titis study identifies the brain region linking actions to their results (2021, June 24) retrieved June 24, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-marmoset-brain- region-linking-actions.html

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