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J Neurosci. 2016 Jun 22;36(25):6732-41. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3253-15.2016.

Dopamine D3 Receptor Availability Is Associated with Inflexible Decision Making.

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Departments of Psychiatry.
Biomedical Engineering, and Department of Diagnostic Radiology.
Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06511.
Department of Diagnostic Radiology.
Departments of Psychiatry, Biomedical Engineering, and Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Positron Emission Tomography Center, and.
Departments of Psychiatry,


Dopamine D2/3 receptor signaling is critical for flexible adaptive behavior; however, it is unclear whether D2, D3, or both receptor subtypes modulate precise signals of feedback and reward history that underlie optimal decision making. Here, PET with the radioligand [(11)C]-(+)-PHNO was used to quantify individual differences in putative D3 receptor availability in rodents trained on a novel three-choice spatial acquisition and reversal-learning task with probabilistic reinforcement. Binding of [(11)C]-(+)-PHNO in the midbrain was negatively related to the ability of rats to adapt to changes in rewarded locations, but not to the initial learning. Computational modeling of choice behavior in the reversal phase indicated that [(11)C]-(+)-PHNO binding in the midbrain was related to the learning rate and sensitivity to positive, but not negative, feedback. Administration of a D3-preferring agonist likewise impaired reversal performance by reducing the learning rate and sensitivity to positive feedback. These results demonstrate a previously unrecognized role for D3 receptors in select aspects of reinforcement learning and suggest that individual variation in midbrain D3 receptors influences flexible behavior. Our combined neuroimaging, behavioral, pharmacological, and computational approach implicates the dopamine D3 receptor in decision-making processes that are altered in psychiatric disorders.


Flexible decision-making behavior is dependent upon dopamine D2/3 signaling in corticostriatal brain regions. However, the role of D3 receptors in adaptive, goal-directed behavior has not been thoroughly investigated. By combining PET imaging with the D3-preferring radioligand [(11)C]-(+)-PHNO, pharmacology, a novel three-choice probabilistic discrimination and reversal task and computational modeling of behavior in rats, we report that naturally occurring variation in [(11)C]-(+)-PHNO receptor availability relates to specific aspects of flexible decision making. We confirm these relationships using a D3-preferring agonist, thus identifying a unique role of midbrain D3 receptors in decision-making processes.


PET; addiction; computational analyses; decision-making; dopamine D3 receptors; reinforcement learning

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