Image_2_Characterizing Different Strategies for Resolving Approach-Avoidance Conflict.TIF (1.47 MB)
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posted on 25.02.2021, 05:53 authored by Hector Bravo-Rivera, Patricia Rubio Arzola, Albit Caban-Murillo, Adriana N. Vélez-Avilés, Shantée N. Ayala-Rosario, Gregory J. Quirk

The ability of animals to maximize benefits and minimize costs during approach-avoidance conflicts is an important evolutionary tool, but little is known about the emergence of specific strategies for conflict resolution. Accordingly, we developed a simple approach-avoidance conflict task in rats that pits the motivation to press a lever for sucrose against the motivation to step onto a distant platform to avoid a footshock delivered at the end of a 30 s tone (sucrose is available only during the tone). Rats received conflict training for 16 days to give them a chance to optimize their strategy by learning to properly time the expression of both behaviors across the tone. Rats unexpectedly separated into three distinct subgroups: those pressing early in the tone and avoiding later (Timers, 49%); those avoiding throughout the tone (Avoidance-preferring, 32%); and those pressing throughout the tone (Approach-preferring, 19%). The immediate early gene cFos revealed that Timers showed increased activity in the ventral striatum and midline thalamus relative to the other two subgroups, Avoidance-preferring rats showed increased activity in the amygdala, and Approach-preferring rats showed decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex. This pattern is consistent with low fear and high behavioral flexibility in Timers, suggesting the potential of this task to reveal the neural mechanisms of conflict resolution.

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