Updating goal-directed actions: A role for orbitofrontal cortex and ventral hippocampus

If you would like to chat with Shauna on the day, please do get in touch with Lauren Burgeno at lauren.burgeno@dpag.ox.ac.uk.

Adaptive decision-making relies on an ability to assign consequences to actions, and to select actions that fulfil internal goals. Behaving in this goal-directed manner therefore requires knowledge about the association between different actions and their specific outcomes. However, in a changing environment, these associations are not always stable. Indeed, the causal relationship between an action and its outcome can change such that this action is no longer necessary. Alternatively, the outcome associated with a given action might change. In both cases, the decision-maker must update their previously acquired goal-directed actions.

In this talk, I will present data that combines principles of Experimental Psychology with neural interventions to study these updating processes. I will first show that noradrenergic signaling in the rodent orbitofrontal cortex is required to adapt behaviour when the outcome associated with an action unexpectedly changes. I will then provide evidence that ventral hippocampus is required to adapt to changes in the causal relationship between an action and its outcome. Together, these data indicate that while orbitofrontal cortex and ventral hippocampus are not required for the initial acquisition or expression of goal-directed actions, they are required when these actions need to be updated.