Dopamine invigorates reward seeking by promoting cue-evoked excitation in the nucleus accumbens

Johann du Hoffmann, Saleem M. Nicola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Approach to reward is a fundamental adaptive behavior, disruption of which is a core symptom of addiction and depression. Nucleus accumbens (NAc) dopamine is required for reward-predictive cues to activate vigorous reward seeking, but the underlying neural mechanism is unknown. Reward-predictive cues elicit both dopamine release in the NAc and excitations and inhibitions in NAc neurons. However, a direct link has not been established between dopamine receptor activation, NAc cue-evoked neuronal activity, and rewardseeking behavior. Here, we use a novel microelectrode array that enables simultaneous recording of neuronal firing and local dopamine receptor antagonist injection. We demonstrate that, in the NAc of rats performing a discriminative stimulus task for sucrose reward, blockade of either D1 or D2 receptors selectively attenuates excitation, but not inhibition, evoked by reward-predictive cues. Furthermore, we establish that this dopamine-dependent signal is necessary for reward-seeking behavior. These results demonstrate a neural mechanism by which NAc dopamine invigorates environmentally cued reward-seeking behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14349-14364
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 22 2014


  • Cue-excited neurons
  • Discriminative stimulus
  • Dopamine
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Reward seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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