Coordinated Ramping of Dorsal Striatal Pathways preceding Food Approach and Consumption

J Neurosci. 2018 Apr 4;38(14):3547-3558. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2693-17.2018. Epub 2018 Mar 9.


The striatum controls food-related actions and consumption and is linked to feeding disorders, including obesity and anorexia nervosa. Two populations of neurons project from the striatum: direct pathway medium spiny neurons and indirect pathway medium spiny neurons. The selective contribution of direct pathway medium spiny neurons and indirect pathway medium spiny neurons to food-related actions and consumption remains unknown. Here, we used in vivo electrophysiology and fiber photometry in mice (of both sexes) to record both spiking activity and pathway-specific calcium activity of dorsal striatal neurons during approach to and consumption of food pellets. While electrophysiology revealed complex task-related dynamics across neurons, population calcium was enhanced during approach and inhibited during consumption in both pathways. We also observed ramping changes in activity that preceded both pellet-directed actions and spontaneous movements. These signals were heterogeneous in the spiking units, with neurons exhibiting either increasing or decreasing ramps. In contrast, the population calcium signals were homogeneous, with both pathways having increasing ramps of activity for several seconds before actions were initiated. An analysis comparing population firing rates to population calcium signals also revealed stronger ramping dynamics in the calcium signals than in the spiking data. In a second experiment, we trained the mice to perform an action sequence to evaluate when the ramping signals terminated. We found that the ramping signals terminated at the beginning of the action sequence, suggesting they may reflect upcoming actions and not preconsumption activity. Plasticity of such mechanisms may underlie disorders that alter action selection, such as drug addiction or obesity.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Alterations in striatal function have been linked to pathological consumption in disorders, such as obesity and drug addiction. We recorded spiking and population calcium activity from the dorsal striatum during ad libitum feeding and an operant task that resulted in mice obtaining food pellets. Dorsal striatal neurons exhibited long ramps in activity that preceded actions by several seconds, and may reflect upcoming actions. Understanding how the striatum controls the preparation and generation of actions may lead to improved therapies for disorders, such as drug addiction or obesity.

Keywords: accumbens; basal ganglia; electrophysiology; feeding; reward; striatum.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Corpus Striatum / cytology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Movement
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Reward


  • Calcium