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Appetitive conditioning and cue reactivity: Recent insights into the role of excitability alterations on neuronal ensembles
Both humans and animals need to respond appropriately to cues that predict the availability of food for nutrient procurement. For example, one may follow a sign leading to a fast food restaurant when driving while hungry or wild mice may follow sweet smells that lead them towards fragrant ripe berries. Such reactive actions to cues (‘cue reactivity’) depend on the brain’s ability to store and retrieve learned associations about food and its predictive cues. Such ‘food-cue’ associations form during Pavlovian conditioning. Although the brain areas implicated in food-cue associations have been well-characterised, the specific neuronal populations that help encode these associations have not been fully elucidated yet.
Animal research has allowed us to obtain better insight of the precise mechanisms behind how these associations are formed and established at the level individual neurons such as their activity patterns. They also allow the characterisation of how individual neurons undergo physiological changes such as changes in their electrical or ‘excitability’ properties, which are thought to be critical for information storage and retrieval. We and others have shown that cue-reward associations are encoded in specific patterns of activity from a population of sparsely distributed neurons, called ‘neuronal ensembles’ in brain areas implicated in reward, such as the nucleus accumbens. Here, I will first discuss how factors such as the strength of food-cue associations and the perceived value of food reward impact cue-evoked food-seeking and the underlying activity patterns and excitability properties of neuronal ensembles in the nucleus accumbens. I will also discuss how neurons in the prefrontal cortex are recruited to form a stable ensemble representation of food-cue associations and how excitability alterations play a crucial role in optimal appetitive conditioning.
Chair: Lora Heisler
- Eisuke Koya, Reader in Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Sussex
- Hosted by
- Rowett Institute
- The Rowett Institute
Dr Nigel Hoggard
Tel: 01224 438655
This is a technical seminar aimed at professional scientists. If you are not a University of Aberdeen staff member and would like to attend, please contact us.