Optimal decision-making requires the capacity to extract predictive information from environmental events to guide future actions. This capacity is commonly studied in the laboratory through outcome-specific Pavlovian Instrumental Transfer (PIT), during which a stimulus predicting a particular outcome guides choice towards actions earning that same outcome. Over several years, Balleine and colleagues have been investigating the core neural systems and cellular circuits that regulate the PIT effect. They have highlighted the critical role played by one brain region in the expression of PIT: the nucleus accumbens shell (NAc-S). They have proposed that the NAc-S integrates information about the Pavlovian and instrumental contingencies that are necessary to mediate the PIT effect. Yet, the upstream structures providing the NAc-S with such information remain elusive. My PhD research will use precise optogenetic manipulations in freely moving rats to investigate the roles played by NAc-S inputs originating from the basolateral amygdala, the paraventricular thalamus and the infralimbic cortex during a PIT test. The general objective of my research is to describe the neural circuitry that allows the NAc-S to mediate the influence of Pavlovian predictive learning on choice between actions, which represents a central component of decision-making processes and allows us to adapt to our environment.
Morse AK, Leung BK, Heath E, Bertran-Gonzalez J, Pepin E, Chieng BC, Balleine BW, Laurent V. (2020). Basolateral Amygdala Drives a GPCR-Mediated Striatal Memory Necessary for Predictive Learning to Influence Choice. Neuron, 106(5), 855-869.e8. Read More.
Pépin É, Jalinier T, Lemieux GL, Massicotte G, Cyr M. (2020). Sphingosine-1-Phosphate Receptors Modulators Decrease Signs of Neuroinflammation and Prevent Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms in the 1-Methyl-4-Phenyl-1,2,3,6-Tetrahydropyridine Mouse Model. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 11. Read More.
Ouimet B, Pépin É, Bergeron Y, Chagniel L, Beaulieu JM, Massicotte G, Cyr M. (2019). Motor learning deficits and striatal GSK-3 hyperactivity in Akt3 knockout mice. Behavioral Neuroscience, 133(1), 135. Read More.
Attiori Essis S, Laurier-Laurin ME, Pépin É, Cyr M, Massicotte G. (2015). GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors are upregulated in plasma membranes by the sphingosine-1-phosphate analog FTY720P. Brain Research, 1624, 349-358. Read More.