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Front Neurosci. 2018 Jun 21;12:418. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00418. eCollection 2018.

Nucleus Accumbens Dopamine D1-Receptor-Expressing Neurons Control the Acquisition of Sign-Tracking to Conditioned Cues in Mice.

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Laboratory for Advanced Brain Functions, Institute for Protein Research, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan.
Medical Innovation Center, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.


Following repeated pairings, the reinforcing and motivational properties (incentive salience) of a reward can be transferred onto an environmental stimulus which can then elicit conditioned responses, including Pavlovian approach behavior to the stimulus (a sign-tracking response). In rodents, acquisition of sign-tracking in autoshaping paradigms is sensitive to lesions and dopamine D1 receptor antagonism of the nucleus accumbens (NAc) of the ventral striatum. However, currently, the possible roles of dorsal striatal subregions, as well as of the two major striatal neuron types, dopamine D1-/D2-expressing medium spiny neurons (MSNs), in controlling the development of conditioned responses is still unclear and warrants further study. Here, for the first time, we used a transgenic mouse line combined with striatal subregion-specific AAV virus injections to separately express tetanus toxin in D1-/D2- MSNs in the NAc, dorsomedial striatum, and dorsolateral striatum, to permanently block neurotransmission in these neurons during acquisition of an autoshaping task. Neurotransmission blocking of NAc D1-MSNs inhibited the acquisition of sign-tracking responses when the initial conditioned response for each conditioned stimulus presentation was examined, confirming our initial hypothesis. These findings suggest that activity in NAc D1-MSNs contributes to the attribution of incentive salience to conditioned stimuli.


autoshaping; dopamine receptor; reversible neurotransmission blocking; reward learning; striatum

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