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Keywords:

  • extinction;
  • microdialysis;
  • reinforcement;
  • reward

Abstract

Dopamine transmission within the nucleus accumbens has been implicated in associative reinforcement learning. We investigated the effect of appetitive classical conditioning on dopamine efflux in the rat nucleus accumbens shell and core, as dopamine may be differentially activated by conditioned and unconditioned stimuli (CS, US) in these subregions. After implantation of microdialysis cannulae, rats were food restricted and trained for three consecutive days with three acquisition sessions per day. A 10-s noise (CS) was immediately followed by the delivery of two reward pellets (US) for the conditioned group (paired presentation), whereas conditioned stimuli and unconditioned stimuli were presented at random for the control group (unpaired presentation). On the fourth day, all rats were given a further CS + US session and two CS-alone sessions, and extracellular dopamine concentrations were measured (7.5 min/per sample). Behavioural measures (number of nose pokes, latency to nose poke after conditioned stimuli onset, locomotor activity) demonstrated that the paired groups showed a high level of conditioning. CS + US presentation increased dopamine equally in both shell and core of the paired and unpaired groups. CS alone presentation induced a conditioned dopamine release only in the paired groups. No significant difference was found between shell and core. Unlike previous conditioning paradigms involving either a more salient US (foot shock, addictive drug) or a more complex CS, the present paradigm, using normal reward pellets as US and a discrete auditory stimulus as CS, did not lead to differential responses in dopamine efflux in shell and core subregions of the nucleus accumbens.