Motivational states influence effort-based decision making in rats: the role of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2012 Mar;12(1):74-84. doi: 10.3758/s13415-011-0068-4.


Decision-making policies are subject to modulation by changing motivational states. However, so far, little is known about the neurochemical mechanisms that bridge motivational states with decision making. Here we examined whether dopamine (DA) in the nucleus accumbens core (AcbC) modulates the effects of motivational states on effort-based decision making. Using a cost-benefit T-maze task in rats, we examined the effects of AcbC DA depletions on effort-based decision making, in particular on the sensitivity of effort-based decision making to a shift from a hungry to a sated state. The results demonstrated that, relative to sham controls, rats with AcbC DA depletion in a hungry as well as in a sated state had a reduced preference for effortful but large-reward action. This finding provides further support for the notion that AcbC DA regulates how much effort to invest for rewards. Importantly, our results further revealed that effort-based decision making in lesioned rats, as in sham controls, was still sensitive to a shift from a hungry to a sated state; that is, their preferences for effortful large-reward actions became lower after a shift from a restricted to a free-feeding regimen. These finding indicate that AcbC DA is not necessarily involved in mediating the effects of a shift in motivational state on decision-making policies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Agents / toxicity
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Fasting / physiology
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Motivation*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / injuries
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism*
  • Oxidopamine / toxicity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Adrenergic Agents
  • Oxidopamine
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopamine