Differential involvement of the agranular vs granular insular cortex in the acquisition and performance of choice behavior in a rodent gambling task Academic Article uri icon


  • Substance-related and addictive disorders, in particular gambling disorder, are known to be associated with risky decision-making behavior. Several neuroimaging studies have identified the involvement of the insular cortex in decision-making under risk. However, the extent of this involvement remains unclear and the specific contributions of two distinct insular subregions, the rostral agranular (RAIC) and the caudal granular (CGIC), have yet to be examined. Animals were trained to perform a rat gambling task (rGT), in which subjects chose between four options that differed in the magnitude and probability of rewards and penalties. In order to address the roles of the RAIC and CGIC in established choice behavior, pharmacological inactivations of these two subregions via local infusions of GABA receptor agonists were performed following 30 rGT training sessions. The contribution made by the RAIC or CGIC to the acquisition of choice behavior was also determined by lesioning these areas before behavioral training. Inactivation of the RAIC, but not of the CGIC, shifted rats’ preference toward options with greater reward frequency and lower punishment. Before rGT acquisition, lesions of the RAIC, but not the CGIC, likewise resulted in a higher preference for options with greater reward frequency and lower punishment, and this persisted throughout the 30 training sessions. Our results provide confirmation of the involvement of the RAIC in rGT choice behavior and suggest that the RAIC may mediate detrimental risky decision-making behavior, such as that associated with addiction and gambling disorder.

publication date

  • May 8, 2015