top of page

A ventral pallidal-thalamocortical circuit mediates the cognitive control of instrumental action

Beatrice K. Leung, Billy Chieng, Serena Becchi, Bernard W. Balleine

Current Biology

June 2024


Predictive learning can engage a selective form of cognitive control that biases choice between actions based on information about future outcomes that the learning provides. This influence has been hypothesized to depend on a feedback circuit in the brain through which the basal ganglia modulate activity in the prefrontal cortex; however, direct evidence for this functional circuit has proven elusive. Here, using an animal model of cognitive control, we found that the influence of predictive learning on decision making is mediated by an inhibitory feedback circuit linking the medial ventral pallidum and the mediodorsal thalamus, the activation of which causes disinhibition of the orbitofrontal cortex via reduced activation of inhibitory parvalbumin interneurons during choice. Thus, we found that, for this function, the mediodorsal thalamus serves as a pallidal-cortical relay through which predictive learning controls action selection, which has important implications for understanding cognitive control and its vicissitudes in various psychiatric disorders and addiction.

bottom of page