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The Role of the Orbitofrontal Cortex in Alcohol Preference, Seeking and Consumption

Abstract
Structural and physiological abnormalities in the frontal cortex are strongly correlated with alcohol use and misuse – a worldwide biomedical concern. One frontal cortical region that has been understudied in terms of alcohol use and misuse is the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). The OFC is critical for encoding the predictive value of appetitive outcomes (rewards), and OFC activity is correlated with the propensity of an individual to seek that reward. Although studies have examined the role of the OFC in cocaine preference and seeking, few studies have examined whether OFC activity encodes the value of alcohol rewards or even if the OFC is necessary for the expression of alcohol seeking. Results demonstrated that OFC neurons do encode the relative behavioral preference for alcohol rewards and that this encoding is relatively stable. Additionally, I investigated whether OFC neurons were necessary for alcohol seeking and consumption using inhibitory chemogenetics and discovered that OFC neurons are selectively necessary for reinstating palatable alcohol as well as sucrose seeking. The findings support that the OFC encodes relative preference for alcohol but is only necessary for modulating behavior on cued-reinstatement, suggesting that the OFC is a target brain region for intervention for alcohol relapse.
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