Neuroscience/Cognitive Neuroscience/Motivation

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Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is essential for the neural circuit that controls reward-seeking in response to reward-predictive cues. Injection of dopamine receptor antagonists into the accumbens severely impairs an animal’s ability to perform operant behaviors specified by predictive cues. Furthermore, inhibitions and excitations of accumbens neurons evoked by such cues are abolished by inactivation of the ventral tegmental area, the major dopaminergic input to the accumbens. Dopamine is necessary to elicit neural activity in the accumbens that drives the behavioral response to cues. Accumbens dopamine release is causal to the rats’ reward-seeking behavioral response. Dopamine in this structure is both necessary and sufficient to promote the appropriate behavioral response to reward-predictive cues. (Nicola et al, 2005)