Today we posted our first preprint to bioRxiv!
How do we know the reward value of a given food or fluid? The item must first be consumed and only then can its relative value be computed. Here, we investigated the relationship between licking and reward signaling by the medial frontal cortex (MFC), a key cortical region for reward-guided learning and decision-making. Rats were tested in an incentive contrast procedure, in which they received alternating access to higher and lower value sucrose rewards. Neuronal activity in the MFC encoded the relative value of the ingested fluids, showing stronger entrainment to the lick cycle when animals ingested higher value rewards. The signals developed with experience, encoded the reward context, and depended on neuronal processing within the MFC. These findings suggest that consummatory behavior drives reward signaling in the MFC.