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Physiological state gates acquisition and expression of mesolimbic reward prediction signals.

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journal contribution
posted on 01.08.2016, 00:00 by Cone JJ, Fortin SM, McHenry JA, Stuber GD, McCutcheon JE, Roitman MF
Phasic dopamine signaling participates in associative learning by reinforcing associations between outcomes (unconditioned stimulus; US) and their predictors (conditioned stimulus; CS). However, prior work has always engendered these associations with innately rewarding stimuli. Thus, whether dopamine neurons can acquire prediction signals in the absence of appetitive experience and update them when the value of the outcome changes remains unknown. Here, we used sodium depletion to reversibly manipulate the appetitive value of a hypertonic sodium solution while measuring phasic dopamine signaling in rat nucleus accumbens. Dopamine responses to the NaCl US following sodium depletion updated independent of prior experience. In contrast, prediction signals were only acquired through extensive experience with a US that had positive affective value. Once learned, dopamine prediction signals were flexibly expressed in a state-dependent manner. Our results reveal striking differences with respect to how physiological state shapes dopamine signals evoked by outcomes and their predictors.


This work was supported by NIH Grants R01 DA025634 (to M.F.R.), K01 DA033380 (to J.E.M.), R01 DA038168 (to G.D.S.), and T32 MH093315 (to J.A.M.) and by the University of Illinois at Chicago Dean’s Scholar Fellowship (to J.J.C.).


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This is a copy of an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. © 2016 National Academy of Sciences Publications.


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