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Functional coupling between non-cholinergic basal forebrain neurons and midbrain dopaminergic neurons

Wednesday, November 06, 2013 — Poster Session I

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

FAES Academic Center (Upper-Level Terrace)




  • I. Avila
  • S.-C. Lin


Recent studies show that the brain uses two major neuromodulatory systems, the midbrain dopaminergic (DA) neurons and non-cholinergic basal forebrain (BF) neurons, to separately encode the hedonic valence and motivational salience of the stimulus. However, motivational salience and hedonic valence are strongly coupled in reward-related contexts because reward-predicting stimuli are highly motivationally salient. We therefore investigated the respective contribution of both neuromodulatory systems by simultaneously recording neuronal activity in both regions while rats performed a reward-biased simple RT task. We found that the activity profile of non-cholinergic BF neurons and putative midbrain DA neurons were highly similar throughout different epochs of this task. Both types of neurons showed robust bursting responses at similar latencies to the trial start signal, to both reward-predicting sounds and to reward delivery. Furthermore, neurons from both regions showed similar bursting amplitude modulation between the two stimuli that predicted large or small reward, and similar reward prediction error modulation toward reward delivery. These observations suggest that non-cholinergic BF neurons and midbrain DA neurons are highly coupled in the reward-related contexts. The lack of functional specification between these two neuronal populations suggests a highly coordinated state early in the decision making process involving multiple subcortical neuromodulatory systems.

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