Ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) neurons play a central role in mediating motivated behaviors, but the circuitry through which they signal positive and negative motivational stimuli is incompletely understood. Using in vivo fiber photometry, we simultaneously recorded activity in DA terminals in different nucleus accumbens (NAc) subnuclei during an aversive and reward conditioning task. We find that DA terminals in the ventral NAc medial shell (vNAcMed) are excited by unexpected aversive outcomes and to cues that predict them, whereas DA terminals in other NAc subregions are persistently depressed. Excitation to reward-predictive cues dominated in the NAc lateral shell and was largely absent in the vNAcMed. Moreover, we demonstrate that glutamatergic (VGLUT2-expressing) neurons in the lateral hypothalamus represent a key afferent input for providing information about aversive outcomes to vNAcMed-projecting DA neurons. Collectively, we reveal the distinct functional contributions of separate mesolimbic DA subsystems and their afferent pathways underlying motivated behaviors. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
Keywords: aversion; dopamine; dorsal raphe; lateral hypothalamus; nucleus accumbens; reward; ventral tegmental area.
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