DS0401 - Une nouvelle représentation du vivant

The neural basis of goal-directed behaviour in Rats – Goal

Neuroognitive bases of decicion making

In a world of increasing complexity, decision making according to the goals is a fundamental process. In the GOAL project, we explore in Rats the spatial and temporal dynamic of informations flows allowing adapted decision making

Understanding the information exchnages between cerebral structures

The objectives of this project are (1) to precise anatomical architecture of the temporo-frontal connexions in order to identify the convergence patterns using retrograde and anterograde labelling (2) to describe the spatial and temporal dynamic of information flows in a decision making task using a combination of cellular imaging and anatomical markers and (3) to modulate this dynamic by a specific and reversible manipulation of these anatomical pathways during key steps of the decision process

This basic science project combines
1/ fine behavioural approaches. Following training of to make an action to obtain a specific reward, we change the value of one of the reward in order to evaluate the animals’ ability to select the appropriate action according to a representation of the reward value.
2/ advanced anatomical approaches. We combine various fluoresent markers to map neuronal connexions.
3) advanced chemogenetic approaches. Thanks to a dual injection of viral vectors, we can decrease in a specific manner the neuronal activity within a set of neurons selected on the basis of their connexions.

1/ Using concepts and methods of associative learning theories, we have shown that goal representation is under the control of contextual stimuli.
2/ We have shown that the acquisition of goal-directed behaviour requires the integrity of temporal (basolatreal amygdala) but not that of frontal (insular cortex) regions.
3/ We have elaborated a new theory of goal-directed behaviour
4/ We have performed the proof of concept of chemogenetic silencing of a set neurons selected on their connectivity.

The results of the Goal project are particularly promising and have given rise to publications already. At the moment, we are using the chemogenetic approach in order to study the neural circuit of goal representation and this work should give rise to a publication in one of the best journals of the field.

Articles in international journals
Parkes S., Ferreira G., Coutureau E. (2016) Acquisition of specific response-outcome associations requires NMDA receptor activation in the basolateral amygdala but not in the insular cortex, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 128: 40-45
Parkes S.L., Marchand A.R., Ferreira G., Coutureau E. Time dependant control of goal- directed behavior. Learning and Behavior, sous presse
Communications dans des conférences internationales
Parkes S., Ferreira, G., Coutureau E. Double dissociation in the role of the basolateral amygdala and the insular cortex in the acquisition and performance of goal-directed actions. Society for Neuroscience, Chicago, 17-20 October 2015,
Alcaraz F., Marchand A.R., Kremer E.J., Coutureau E., Wolff M. Thalamo-cortical control of goal-directed behavior in Rats. Society for Neuroscience, Chicago, 17-20 October 2015
Symposium: “Neurocognitive bases of decision making”, Bordeaux, le 09/04/2015

In a world of increasing social complexity and technological advances we need to make real-time decisions that are compatible with our goals. Yet, how we dynamically integrate complex sets of elements - such as action consequences, outcome properties and motivation - into executive decisions remains poorly understood. Clearly this knowledge would provide powerful solutions to problems requiring the construction of autonomous artifacts (robots) capable of dealing with a variable environment. It would also offer analytical tools to better characterize mental diseases involving impaired decision making (e.g. schizophrenia, addictions). Research in decision making has recently benefited from a variety of approaches in cognitive neuroscience, behavioural psychology, machine learning and neuroeconomy. These convergent approaches have identified comparable processes of goal representation in humans and animals, thereby paving the way for in-depth analyses of goal-directed behavior. Rodents for instance, after specific devaluation procedures, flexibly select their actions according to a representation of the current value of the action’s outcome. Such goal-directed behavior may be disrupted by a number of manipulations of a neural circuitry encompassing temporal and prefrontal areas, so that an animal may still appear willing to perform an action leading to a devalued food. The appropriate conversion of outcome value into action may require exchanges of information at specific times within a circuit comprising the prelimbic area (PL) in the prefrontal cortex, the basolateral amygdala (BLA) and the insular cortex (IC). However, the temporal interplay between the different regions and the differential contribution of each node of the system remain essentially unknown. The aim of “GOAL” is to explore these time-dependent and region-specific exchanges. The project relies upon complementary expertise from two disciplines. Two teams in Bordeaux play a leading role in the behavioural and neurobiological analysis of prefrontal and insular cortex function in rodents, based on associative learning theory and neurobiological approaches. One team from Montpellier is the reference lab for canine adenovirus (CAV-2) vectors for gene transfer to neurons and will contribute powerful tools for the study of brain-behaviour relationships. The specific objectives of the project are (1) To clarify the neural architecture of temporo-frontal connections, using a double anterograde and retrograde staining strategies, so as to identify specific loci within the PL and the BLA that converge to specific portions of the IC; (2) To examine the spatio-temporal activation pattern of the temporo-frontal pathways by combining ex vivo imaging based on the immunochemical detection of the immediate early gene Arc and the use of neuroanatomical tracers; and (3) To address the dynamics of fronto-temporal functional interactions in goal-directed behaviour by specifically and transiently manipulating the activity of a given pathway. Using DREADD (designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs) retrogradely transported to the BLA or the PL by using a CAV-2 vector, we will be able to decrease the activity of specific neuronal populations of IC based on their projections and to identify the direction of information flows between these brain regions during each phase of the task. GOAL, focusing on connectivity and the temporal and spatial characteristics of information exchanges at the system level, will provide unique insight into the dynamics of decision making.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Etienne COUTUREAU (Institut de Neurosciences Cognitives et Intégratives d'Aquitaine)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


INCIA-CNRS Institut de Neurosciences Cognitives et Intégratives d'Aquitaine
Nutrineuro-INRA Nutrition et Neurobiologie Intégrée
IGMM-CNRS Institut de Génétique Moléculaire de Montpellier-CNRS

Help of the ANR 335,566 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2015 - 36 Months

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