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Nat Commun. 2016 Jan 28;7:10503. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10503.

Serotonin neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus encode reward signals.

Li Y1,2, Zhong W1,2, Wang D2,3, Feng Q2, Liu Z2, Zhou J2,4, Jia C2, Hu F2, Zeng J2, Guo Q2,5, Fu L5, Luo M1,2,3.

Author information

Graduate School of Peking Union Medical College, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing 100730, China.
National Institute of Biological Sciences, Zhongguancun Life Science Park 7 Science Park Road, Beijing 102206, China.
School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.
PTN Graduate Program, School of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100081, China.
Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics-Huazhong, Britton Chance Center for Biomedical Photonics, University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430074, China.


The dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) is involved in organizing reward-related behaviours; however, it remains unclear how genetically defined neurons in the DRN of a freely behaving animal respond to various natural rewards. Here we addressed this question using fibre photometry and single-unit recording from serotonin (5-HT) neurons and GABA neurons in the DRN of behaving mice. Rewards including sucrose, food, sex and social interaction rapidly activate 5-HT neurons, but aversive stimuli including quinine and footshock do not. Both expected and unexpected rewards activate 5-HT neurons. After mice learn to wait for sucrose delivery, most 5-HT neurons fire tonically during waiting and then phasically on reward acquisition. Finally, GABA neurons are activated by aversive stimuli but inhibited when mice seek rewards. Thus, DRN 5-HT neurons positively encode a wide range of reward signals during anticipatory and consummatory phases of reward responses. Moreover, GABA neurons play a complementary role in reward processing.

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