Laura Corbit, PhD, Psychology, University of Toronto St George
Talk Title: Understanding the effects of diet on decision-making and the neural circuits underlying behavioural control
Brain & Behaviour Seminar Series 2017-2018
Abstract: Habits provide a rapid, efficient means for decision making however, this comes with a loss in behavioural flexibility. Although striatal circuits are involved in habit learning, little is known about how experiences that accelerate habit learning alter activity in these circuits to promote premature habitual control. Using a task that distinguishes flexible actions from habits, we have found that chronic access to a high-sugar promotes habitual behavioural control. We went on to examine changes to glia and neurons in dorsomedial (DMS) and dorsolateral striatum (DLS), structures known to control flexible and habitual behaviours, respectively. Using analyses of 3-D morphological reconstructions of cells we found an increase in microglia size and proliferation, particularly in the DMS. These microglial changes were accompanied by reduced neuron size and spine number in the same area and altered electrophysiological properties. These results indicate that diet can undermine the normal function of the goal-directed DMS system potentially allowing early habitual control mediated by the DLS circuit. These results have important implications for understanding failures of behavioural control and strategies for improving behavioural flexibility.
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