Striatal dopamine explains novelty-induced behavioral dynamics and individual variability in threat prediction

Neuron. 2022 Nov 16;110(22):3789-3804.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2022.08.022. Epub 2022 Sep 20.


Animals both explore and avoid novel objects in the environment, but the neural mechanisms that underlie these behaviors and their dynamics remain uncharacterized. Here, we used multi-point tracking (DeepLabCut) and behavioral segmentation (MoSeq) to characterize the behavior of mice freely interacting with a novel object. Novelty elicits a characteristic sequence of behavior, starting with investigatory approach and culminating in object engagement or avoidance. Dopamine in the tail of the striatum (TS) suppresses engagement, and dopamine responses were predictive of individual variability in behavior. Behavioral dynamics and individual variability are explained by a reinforcement-learning (RL) model of threat prediction in which behavior arises from a novelty-induced initial threat prediction (akin to "shaping bonus") and a threat prediction that is learned through dopamine-mediated threat prediction errors. These results uncover an algorithmic similarity between reward- and threat-related dopamine sub-systems.

Keywords: avoidance; dopamine; initialization; neophobia; novelty; prediction; reinforcement learning; tail of the striatum; threat; threat prediction error; uncertainty.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corpus Striatum* / physiology
  • Dopamine* / physiology
  • Learning / physiology
  • Mice
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Reward


  • Dopamine