Cognitive impairment of prefrontal-dependent decision-making in rats after the onset of chronic pain

M. Pais-Vieira, M. M. Mendes-Pinto, D. Lima, V. Galhardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Forced choice between alternative options of unpredictable outcome is a complex task that requires continual update of the value associated with each option. Prefrontal areas such as the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) have been shown to play a major role in performance on ambiguous decision-making tasks with substantial risk component, broadly named as "gambling tasks." We have recently demonstrated that rats display complex decision-making behavior in a rodent gambling task based on serial choices between rewards of different value and probability. This rodent task retains many of the key characteristics of the human Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), and performance in this novel task is also disrupted by OFC or amygdalar lesioning. In the present study we addressed if rat models of chronic pain would have impaired performance in this gambling task, since it is already known that the IGT response patterns of human pain patients are comparable to individuals with OFC lesions. We found that animals with a monoarthritic inflammatory model of chronic pain systematically preferred the lever associated with larger but infrequent rewards. In addition, we measured the neurochemical content of the OFC, amygdala and nucleus accumbens using HPLC, and found that in prolonged chronic pain animals there was a decrease in the tonic levels of dopamine, DOPAC (3,4-hydroxyphenyl-acetic acid) and 5-HIAA (5-hydroxyindole-3-acetic acid) in the OFC. This is the first report of the effect of chronic pain in rat decision-making processes and supports the notion that pain may have profound effects on the functioning of the reward-aversion circuitry relevant to strategic planning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-679
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 07 Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • gambling
  • monoarthritis
  • orbitofrontal cortex
  • reward
  • uncertainty


Dive into the research topics of 'Cognitive impairment of prefrontal-dependent decision-making in rats after the onset of chronic pain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this