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Relation of Locus Coeruleus Neurons in Monkeys to Pavlovian and Operant Behaviors

By Sebastien Bouret and Barry J. Richmond


Noradrenaline is released throughout the forebrain from locus coeruleus (LC) projections in close temporal proximity to emotional and goal-directed events. To examine interactive influences of these processes on LC neuronal activity, we used a task where Pavlovian and operant processes vary and can be easily identified. We recorded 69 single LC neurons from two monkeys performing a task where cues indicate the progression through schedules of one, two, or three operant trials. Pavlovian responses and phasic LC activations occur following the appearance of conditioned visual cues (54/69 neurons), especially those at the beginning of new schedules, whether the current trial will be rewarded (single trial schedule) or not (2 or 3 trial schedules), and after visual imperative signals eliciting the operant response (64/69 neurons), whether the current trial will be rewarded or not. The modulation of LC responses seems to be relatively independent of attention or motivation, because the responses do not covary with operant performance in the task. The magnitude of LC responses across the schedules varied in close relation to the intensity of Pavlovian behavior but these responses were also modulated by operant processes. Our conclusion is that LC activation occurs when task-relevant stimuli evoke a conditioned instinctive (Pavlovian) response, with the strength of the activation also being modulated by goal-directed processes. Thus locus coeruleus neurons broadcast information about stimulus-elicited primitive and goal-directed behaviors to forebrain structures important for executive functions and emotions

Topics: Articles
Publisher: American Physiological Society
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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