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Neuroscience. 2010 Sep 15;169(4):1682-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.06.047. Epub 2010 Jun 25.

Cue-evoked dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens shell tracks reinforcer magnitude during intracranial self-stimulation.

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Curriculum in Neurobiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3290, USA.


The mesolimbic dopamine system is critically involved in modulating reward-seeking behavior and is transiently activated upon presentation of reward-predictive cues. It has previously been shown, using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry in behaving rats, that cues predicting a variety of reinforcers including food/water, cocaine or intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) elicit time-locked transient fluctuations in dopamine concentration in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) shell. These dopamine transients have been found to correlate with reward-related learning and are believed to promote reward-seeking behavior. Here, we investigated the effects of varying reinforcer magnitude (intracranial stimulation parameters) on cue-evoked dopamine release in the NAc shell in rats performing ICSS. We found that the amplitude of cue-evoked dopamine is adaptable, tracks reinforcer magnitude and is significantly correlated with ICSS seeking behavior. Specifically, the concentration of cue-associated dopamine transients increased significantly with increasing reinforcer magnitude, while, at the same time, the latency to lever press decreased with reinforcer magnitude. These data support the proposed role of NAc dopamine in the facilitation of reward-seeking and provide unique insight into factors influencing the plasticity of dopaminergic signaling during behavior.

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