Neuron-type-specific signals for reward and punishment in the ventral tegmental area

Jeremiah Y Cohen, Sebastian Haesler, Linh Vong, Bradford B. Lowell, Naoshige Uchida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Dopamine has a central role in motivation and reward. Dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) signal the discrepancy between expected and actual rewards (that is, reward prediction error), but how they compute such signals is unknown. We recorded the activity of VTA neurons while mice associated different odour cues with appetitive and aversive outcomes. We found three types of neuron based on responses to odours and outcomes: approximately half of the neurons (type I, 52%) showed phasic excitation after reward-predicting odours and rewards in a manner consistent with reward prediction error coding; the other half of neurons showed persistent activity during the delay between odour and outcome that was modulated positively (type II, 31%) or negatively (type III, 18%) by the value of outcomes. Whereas the activity of type I neurons was sensitive to actual outcomes (that is, when the reward was delivered as expected compared to when it was unexpectedly omitted), the activity of type II and type III neurons was determined predominantly by reward-predicting odours. We tagged dopaminergic and GABAergic neurons with the light-sensitive protein channelrhodopsin-2 and identified them based on their responses to optical stimulation while recording. All identified dopaminergic neurons were of type I and all GABAergic neurons were of type II. These results show that VTA GABAergic neurons signal expected reward, a key variable for dopaminergic neurons to calculate reward prediction error.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-88
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume482
Issue number7383
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2 2012
Externally publishedYes

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Ventral Tegmental Area
Punishment
Reward
Neurons
Dopaminergic Neurons
GABAergic Neurons
Cues
Motivation
Dopamine
Odorants
Light

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Neuron-type-specific signals for reward and punishment in the ventral tegmental area. / Cohen, Jeremiah Y; Haesler, Sebastian; Vong, Linh; Lowell, Bradford B.; Uchida, Naoshige.

In: Nature, Vol. 482, No. 7383, 02.02.2012, p. 85-88.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Cohen, Jeremiah Y ; Haesler, Sebastian ; Vong, Linh ; Lowell, Bradford B. ; Uchida, Naoshige. / Neuron-type-specific signals for reward and punishment in the ventral tegmental area. In: Nature. 2012 ; Vol. 482, No. 7383. pp. 85-88.
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