To survive in an ever-changing environment, animals must detect and learn salient information. The anterior insular cortex (aIC) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) are heavily implicated in salience and novelty processing, and specifically, the processing of taste sensory information. Here, we examined the role of aIC-mPFC reciprocal connectivity in novel taste neophobia and memory formation, in mice. Using pERK and neuronal intrinsic properties as markers for neuronal activation, and retrograde AAV (rAAV) constructs for connectivity, we demonstrate a correlation between aIC-mPFC activity and novel taste experience. Furthermore, by expressing inhibitory chemogenetic receptors in these projections, we show that aIC-to-mPFC activity is necessary for both taste neophobia and its attenuation. However, activity within mPFC-to-aIC projections is essential only for the neophobic reaction but not for the learning process. These results provide an insight into the cortical circuitry needed to detect, react to- and learn salient stimuli, a process critically involved in psychiatric disorders.
eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd