Locus coeruleus patterns differentially modulate learning and valence in rat via the ventral tegmental area and basolateral amygdala respectively
The locus coeruleus (LC), the main source of forebrain norepinephrine, produces phasic and tonic firing patterns that are theorized to have distinct functional consequences. However, how different firing modes affect learning and valence coding of sensory information are unknown. Here bilateral optogenetic activation of rat LC neurons using 10-Hz phasic trains of either 300 msec or 10 sec accelerates acquisition of a food-rewarded similar odor discrimination, but not a dissimilar odor
... ilar odor discrimination, consistent with LC-supported enhanced pattern separation and plasticity. Similar odor discrimination learning is impaired by noradrenergic blockade in the piriform cortex (PC). However, here 10-Hz LC phasic light-mediated learning facilitation is prevented by a dopaminergic antagonist in the PC, or by ventral tegmental area (VTA) silencing with lidocaine, suggesting an LC-VTA-PC dopamine circuitry mediates 10-Hz phasic learning facilitation. Tonic stimulation at 10 Hz did not alter odor discrimination acquisition, and was less effective in activating VTA DA neurons. For valence encoding, tonic stimulation at 25 Hz induced freezing, anxiety and conditioned odor aversion, while 10-Hz phasic stimulation produced an odor preference consistent with positive valence. Noradrenergic blockade in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) prevented conditioned odor preference and aversion induced by 10-Hz phasic and 25-Hz tonic light respectively. CTB retro-labeling showed relatively larger engagement of nucleus accumbens projecting neurons over central amygdala projecting neurons in the BLA with 10-Hz LC phasic activation, compared to 25-Hz tonic. These outcomes argue that LC pauses, as well as LC firing frequencies, differentially influence both target networks and behaviour.