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Elife. 2018 Nov 28;7. pii: e38090. doi: 10.7554/eLife.38090.

Rat behavior and dopamine release are modulated by conspecific distress.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, United States.
2
Gemstone Honors Program, University of Maryland, College Park, United States.
3
Center for Neurobehavioral Research, Boys Town National Research Hospital, Boys Town, United States.
4
Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, United States.
5
Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, United States.
6
Program in Neuroscience, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, United States.
7
Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, University of Maryland, College Park, United States.
#
Contributed equally

Abstract

Rats exhibit 'empathy' making them a model to understand the neural underpinnings of such behavior. We show data consistent with these findings, but also that behavior and dopamine (DA) release reflects subjective rather than objective evaluation of appetitive and aversive events that occur to another. We recorded DA release in two paradigms: one that involved cues predictive of unavoidable shock to the conspecific and another that allowed the rat to refrain from reward when there were harmful consequences to the conspecific. Behavior and DA reflected pro-social interactions in that DA suppression was reduced during cues that predicted shock in the presence of the conspecific and that DA release observed on self-avoidance trials was present when the conspecific was spared. However, DA also increased when the conspecific was shocked instead of the recording rat and DA release during conspecific avoidance trials was lower than when the rat avoided shock for itself.

KEYWORDS:

accumbens; dopamine; empathy; neuroscience; rat; reward; social; striatum

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