Emotions are often contrasted with reason. However, integration of emotional information into the decision-making processes can advantageously bias adaptive behavior selection. Miss-regulation of emotional information integration in cortical processing is a hallmark of psychiatric disorders with affect dysregulation. Our knowledge of the etiology and pathophysiology of these disorders is strongly limited by our understanding of the non-pathological neuronal circuits underlying emotional processing and makes targeted intervention methods scarce. I here propose to investigate information transfer between two hub regions involved in valence assignment to environmental stimuli and integration of this information in decision making. Gaining insight into the long-range connectivity between the basolateral complex of the amygdala (BLA) and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the integration of BLA information in the local mPFC circuit in mice will significantly advance our understanding of emotional processing during decision making. I hypothesize that the BLA can influence the mPFC in a valence-specific manner. To address how valence representation encoded in the BLA biases action selection in a decision-making task, I am going to train mice in a cost-benefit task and modulate valence-specific BLA projections to the mPFC. Furthermore, using in vivo two-photon calcium imaging and state-of-the art long range connectivity mapping methods, I will characterize if the BLA transmits differential valence information to specific mPFC subregions. Finally, I will investigate how valence-specific BLA information is integrated in the local mPFC circuit, using optogenetics based functional connectivity mapping methods in the acute brain slice preparation. This research will allow for the first time to achieve a circuit and cellular level mechanistic understanding of the influence of positive and negative valence coding in the BLA on mPFC processing and ultimately decision-making.
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