Responses and functions of dopamine in nucleus accumbens core during social behaviors

Cell Rep. 2022 Aug 23;40(8):111246. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.111246.


Social behaviors are among the most important motivated behaviors. How dopamine (DA), a "reward" signal, releases during social behaviors has been a topic of interest for decades. Here, we use a genetically encoded DA sensor, GRABDA2m, to record DA activity in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) core during various social behaviors in male and female mice. We find that DA releases during approach, investigation and consummation phases of social behaviors signal animals' motivation, familiarity of the social target, and valence of the experience, respectively. Positive and negative social experiences evoke opposite DA patterns. Furthermore, DA releases during mating and fighting are sexually dimorphic with a higher level in males than in females. At the functional level, increasing DA in NAc enhances social interest toward a familiar conspecific and alleviates defeat-induced social avoidance. Altogether, our results reveal complex information encoded by NAc DA activity during social behaviors and their multistage functional roles.

Keywords: CP: Neuroscience; dopamine; innate social behaviors; nucleus accumbens core; sex difference; social avoidance learning; social interest.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Motivation
  • Nucleus Accumbens* / physiology
  • Reward
  • Social Behavior


  • Dopamine