Dataset for: Anterior cingulate cortex supports effort allocation toward a qualitatively preferred option

The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is known to be involved in effortful choice, yet its role in cost-benefit evaluation of qualitatively different rewards (more/less preferred), beyond magnitude differences (larger/smaller), is poorly understood. Selecting among qualitatively different options is a decision type commonly faced by humans. Here we assessed the role of ACC on a task that has primarily been used to probe striatal function in motivation. Rats were trained to stable performance on a progressive ratio schedule for sucrose pellets and were then given sham surgeries (control) or excitotoxic NMDA-lesions of ACC. Subsequently, a choice was introduced: chow was concurrently available while animals could work for the preferred sucrose pellets. ACC lesions produced a significant decrease in lever presses for sucrose pellets compared to control, whereas chow consumption was unaffected. Lesions had no effect on sucrose pellet preference when both options were freely available. When lab chow was not concurrently available, ACC lesioned rats exhibited similar lever pressing as controls. During a test under specific satiety for sucrose pellets, ACC lesioned rats also showed intact devaluation effects. The effects of ACC lesions in our task are not mediated by decreased appetite, a change in food preference, a failure to update value, or a learning deficit. Taken together, we found that ACC lesions decreased effort for a qualitatively-preferred option. These results are discussed with reference to effects of striatal manipulations and our recent report of a role for basolateral amygdala in effortful choice.