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eNeuro. 2018 Apr 20;5(2). pii: ENEURO.0007-18.2018. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0007-18.2018. eCollection 2018 Mar-Apr.

Firing of Putative Dopamine Neurons in Ventral Tegmental Area Is Modulated by Probability of Success during Performance of a Stop-Change Task.

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Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742.
Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742.


Response inhibition, the ability to refrain from unwanted actions, is an essential component of complex behavior and is often impaired across numerous neuropsychiatric disorders such as addiction, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Accordingly, much research has been devoted to characterizing brain regions responsible for the regulation of response inhibition. The stop-signal task, a task in which animals are required to inhibit a prepotent response in the presence of a STOP cue, is one of the most well-studied tasks of response inhibition. While pharmacological evidence suggests that dopamine (DA) contributes to the regulation of response inhibition, what is exactly encoded by DA neurons during performance of response inhibition tasks is unknown. To address this issue, we recorded from single units in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), while rats performed a stop-change task. We found that putative DA neurons fired less and higher to cues and reward on STOP trials relative to GO trials, respectively, and that firing was reduced during errors. These results suggest that DA neurons in VTA encode the uncertainty associated with the probability of obtaining reward on difficult trials instead of the saliency associated with STOP cues or the need to resolve conflict between competing responses during response inhibition.


conflict; dopamine; inhibition; neuron; rat; stop signal

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