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Neurosci Lett. 2004 Nov 11;370(2-3):114-7.

Dopamine in the orbitofrontal cortex regulates operant responding under a progressive ratio of reinforcement in rats.

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Department of Neuropharmacology, Brain Research Institute, University of Bremen-FB 2, PO Box 330440, 28334 Bremen, Germany.


Prefrontocortical dopamine (DA) plays an essential role in the regulation of cognitive functions and behavior. The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) receives a dopaminergic projection from the ventral tegmental area and is particularly important for goal-directed appetitive behaviors and for the neural representation of reward value. We here examined the effects of DA receptor blockers locally infused into the OFC, on instrumental behavior under a progressive schedule of reinforcement. After continuous reinforcement training (lever pressing for casein pellets) rats received bilateral intra-OFC-infusions of the DA D1-receptor antagonist SCH23390 (3 microg/0.5 microl), the DA D2-receptor antagonist sulpiride (3 microg/0.5 microl), or phosphate buffered saline through chronically indwelling cannulae. Immediately after infusion they were tested under a time-constrained progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement (3, 6, 9, 12, ... lever presses for 1 casein pellet within 180 s). Both SCH23390 and sulpiride led to a significant reduction of the break point (cessation to respond to the increasing criterion of instrumental effort) compared to vehicle infusions. A food preference test revealed no drug effects on the amount of consumed pellets and on the preference of casein pellets over laboratory chow. Leftward shifts of the break point in progressive ratio tasks indicate a disturbance of the mechanisms that translate motivation into appetitive behavior under conditions of increasing instrumental effort. Therefore, our data indicate that orbitofrontal dopamine is necessary for reward-related instrumental behavior.

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