Contrasting effects of dopamine and glutamate receptor antagonist injection in the nucleus accumbens suggest a neural mechanism underlying cue-evoked goal-directed behavior

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Discriminative stimuli (DSs) inform animals that reward can be obtained contingent on the performance of a specific behavior. Such stimuli reinstate drug-seeking behavior, evoke dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and excite and inhibit specific subpopulations of NAc neurons. Here we show in rats that DSs can reinstate food-seeking behavior. In addition, we compare the effects of injecting dopamine receptor antagonists into the NAc with those of general NAc inactivation on the performance of a DS task. Selective antagonism of D1 receptors reduced responding to the DS and increased the latency to respond, whereas general inactivation of NAc neuronal activity increased the latency to respond to the DS and increased behaviors extraneous to the task, such as responding in the absence of cues and responding on the inactive lever. Based on these results and our previous findings that NAc neuronal responses to DSs are dependent on the ventral tegmental area, we propose a model for the functional role of NAc neurons in controlling behavioral responses to reward-predictive stimuli.

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