Receptor-specific modulation of risk-based decision making by nucleus accumbens dopamine

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013 Apr;38(5):715-28. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.240. Epub 2012 Nov 29.


The nucleus accumbens (NAc) serves as an integral node within cortico-limbic circuitry that regulates various forms of cost-benefit decision making. The dopamine (DA) system has also been implicated in enabling organisms to overcome a variety of costs to obtain more valuable rewards. However, it remains unclear how DA activity within the NAc may regulate decision making involving reward uncertainty. This study investigated the contribution of different DA receptor subtypes in the NAc to risk-based decision making, assessed with a probabilistic discounting task. In well-trained rats, D1 receptor blockade with SCH 23,390 decreased preference for larger, uncertain rewards, which was associated with enhanced negative-feedback sensitivity (ie, an increased tendency to select a smaller/certain option after an unrewarded risky choice). Treatment with a D1 agonist (SKF 81,297) optimized decision making, increasing choice of the risky option when reward probability was high, and decreasing preference under low probability conditions. In stark contrast, neither blockade of NAc D2 receptors with eticlopride, nor stimulation of these receptors with quinpirole or bromocriptine influenced risky choice. In comparison, infusion of the D3-preferring agonist PD 128,907 decreased reward sensitivity and risky choice. Collectively, these results show that mesoaccumbens DA refines risk-reward decision biases via dissociable mechanisms recruiting D1 and D3, but not D2 receptors. D1 receptor activity mitigates the effect of reward omissions on subsequent choices to promote selection of reward options that may have greater long-term utility, whereas excessive D3 receptor activity blunts the impact that larger/uncertain rewards have in promoting riskier choices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Decision Making / drug effects
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / drug effects
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism*
  • Probability
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Receptors, Dopamine / physiology*
  • Reward
  • Risk-Taking*


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Dopamine