Phasic dopamine release in the rat nucleus accumbens predicts approach and avoidance performance

Nat Commun. 2016 Oct 27;7:13154. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13154.


Dopamine (DA) is critical for reward processing, but significantly less is known about its role in punishment avoidance. Using a combined approach-avoidance task, we measured phasic DA release in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) of rats during presentation of cues that predicted reward, punishment or neutral outcomes and investigated individual differences based on avoidance performance. Here we show that DA release within a single microenvironment is higher for reward and avoidance cues compared with neutral cues and positively correlated with poor avoidance behaviour. We found that DA release delineates trial-type during sessions with good avoidance but is non-selective during poor avoidance, with high release correlating with poor performance. These data demonstrate that phasic DA is released during cued approach and avoidance within the same microenvironment and abnormal processing of value signals is correlated with poor performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism*
  • Punishment
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reward


  • Dopamine