The nucleus accumbens (NAc) is a key region in motivated behaviors. NAc medium spiny neurons (MSNs) are divided into those expressing dopamine receptor D1 or D2. Classically, D1- and D2-MSNs have been described as having opposing roles in reinforcement but recent evidence suggests a more complex role for D2-MSNs. Here we show that optogenetic modulation of D2-MSN to ventral pallidum (VP) projections during different stages of motivated behavior has contrasting effects in motivation. Activation of D2-MSN-VP projections during a reward-predicting cue results in increased motivational drive, whereas activation at reward delivery results in decreased motivation; optical inhibition has the opposite behavioral effect. In addition, in a free choice instrumental task, animals prefer the lever that originates one pellet in opposition to pellet plus D2-MSN-VP optogenetic activation, and vice versa for optogenetic inhibition. In summary, D2-MSN-VP projections play different (and even opposing) roles in distinct phases of motivated behavior.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience