Devaluation, But Not Reversal Learning Performance, in Young and Aged Monkeys

July 23, 2014


The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and amygdala are both necessary for decisions based on expected outcomes. Although behavioral and imaging data suggest that these brain regions are affected by advanced age, the extent to which aging alters appetitive processes coordinated by the OFC and the amygdala is unknown. In the current experiment, young and aged bonnet macaques were trained on OFC- and amygdala-dependent tasks that test the degree to which response selection is guided by reward value and can be adapted when expected outcomes change. To assess whether the structural integrity of these regions varies with levels of performance on reward devaluation and object reversal tasks, volumes of areas 11/13 and 14 of the OFC, central/medial (CM), and basolateral (BL) nuclei of the amygdala were determined from high-resolution anatomical MRIs. With age, there were significant reductions in OFC, but not CM and BL, volume. Moreover, the aged monkeys showed impairments in the ability to associate an object with a higher value reward, and to reverse a previously learned association. Interestingly, greater OFC volume of area 11/13, but not 14, was significantly correlated with an animals ability to anticipate the reward outcome associated with an object, and smaller BL volume was predictive of an animals tendency to choose a higher value reward, but volume of neither region correlated with reversal learning. Together, these data indicate that OFC volume has an impact on monkeys ability to guide choice behavior based on reward value but does not impact ability to reverse a previously learned association.