Rat intersubjective decisions are encoded by frequency-specific oscillatory contexts.
INTRODUCTION: It is unknown how the brain coordinates decisions to withstand personal costs in order to prevent other individuals' distress. Here we test whether local field potential (LFP) oscillations between brain regions create "neural contexts" that select specific brain functions and encode the outcomes of these types of intersubjective decisions. METHODS: Rats participated in an "Intersubjective Avoidance Test" (IAT) that tested rats' willingness to enter an innately aversive chamber to prevent another rat from getting shocked. c-Fos immunoreactivity was used to screen for brain regions involved in IAT performance. Multi-site local field potential (LFP) recordings were collected simultaneously and bilaterally from five brain regions implicated in the c-Fos studies while rats made decisions in the IAT. Local field potential recordings were analyzed using an elastic net penalized regression framework. RESULTS: Rats voluntarily entered an innately aversive chamber to prevent another rat from getting shocked, and c-Fos immunoreactivity in brain regions known to be involved in human empathy-including the anterior cingulate, insula, orbital frontal cortex, and amygdala-correlated with the magnitude of "intersubjective avoidance" each rat displayed. Local field potential recordings revealed that optimal accounts of rats' performance in the task require specific frequencies of LFP oscillations between brain regions in addition to specific frequencies of LFP oscillations within brain regions. Alpha and low gamma coherence between spatially distributed brain regions predicts more intersubjective avoidance, while theta and high gamma coherence between a separate subset of brain regions predicts less intersubjective avoidance. Phase relationship analyses indicated that choice-relevant coherence in the alpha range reflects information passed from the amygdala to cortical structures, while coherence in the theta range reflects information passed in the reverse direction. CONCLUSION: These results indicate that the frequency-specific "neural context" surrounding brain regions involved in social cognition encodes outcomes of decisions that affect others, above and beyond signals from any set of brain regions in isolation.
Schaich Borg, J; Srivastava, S; Lin, L; Heffner, J; Dunson, D; Dzirasa, K; de Lecea, L
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