Neuronal activity in monkey ventral striatum related to the expectation of reward

J Neurosci. 1992 Dec;12(12):4595-610. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.12-12-04595.1992.


Projections from cortical and subcortical limbic structures to the basal ganglia are predominantly directed to the ventral striatum. The present study investigated how the expectation of external events with behavioral significance is reflected in the activity of ventral striatal neurons. A total of 420 neurons were studied in macaque monkeys performing in a delayed go-no-go task. Lights of different colors instructed the animal to do an arm-reaching movement or refrain from moving, respectively, when a trigger light was illuminated a few seconds later. Task performance was reinforced by liquid reward in both situations. A total of 60 ventral striatal neurons showed sustained increases of activity before the occurrence of individual task events. In 43 of these neurons, activations specifically preceded the delivery of reward, independent of the movement or no-movement reaction. In a series of additional tests, these activations were time locked to the subsequent reward, disappeared within a few trials when reward was omitted, and were temporally unrelated to mouth movements. Changes in the appetitive value of the reward liquid modified the magnitude of activations, suggesting a possible relationship to the hedonic properties of the expected event. Activations also occurred when reward was delivered in a predictable manner outside of any behavioral task. These data suggest that neurons in the ventral striatum are activated during states of expectation of individual environmental events that are predictable to the subject through its past experience. The prevalence of activations related to the expectation of reward suggests that ventral striatal neurons have access to central representations of reward and thereby participate in the processing of information underlying the motivational control of goal-directed behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Animals
  • Color
  • Corpus Striatum / anatomy & histology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reward*
  • Time Factors