Format

Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Nature. 2012 Jan 18;482(7383):85-8. doi: 10.1038/nature10754.

Neuron-type-specific signals for reward and punishment in the ventral tegmental area.

Author information

  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Center for Brain Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.

Abstract

Dopamine has a central role in motivation and reward. Dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) signal the discrepancy between expected and actual rewards (that is, reward prediction error), but how they compute such signals is unknown. We recorded the activity of VTA neurons while mice associated different odour cues with appetitive and aversive outcomes. We found three types of neuron based on responses to odours and outcomes: approximately half of the neurons (type I, 52%) showed phasic excitation after reward-predicting odours and rewards in a manner consistent with reward prediction error coding; the other half of neurons showed persistent activity during the delay between odour and outcome that was modulated positively (type II, 31%) or negatively (type III, 18%) by the value of outcomes. Whereas the activity of type I neurons was sensitive to actual outcomes (that is, when the reward was delivered as expected compared to when it was unexpectedly omitted), the activity of type II and type III neurons was determined predominantly by reward-predicting odours. We 'tagged' dopaminergic and GABAergic neurons with the light-sensitive protein channelrhodopsin-2 and identified them based on their responses to optical stimulation while recording. All identified dopaminergic neurons were of type I and all GABAergic neurons were of type II. These results show that VTA GABAergic neurons signal expected reward, a key variable for dopaminergic neurons to calculate reward prediction error.

Comment in

PMID:
22258508
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3271183
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

0 comments
How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Nature Publishing Group Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk