Nucleus accumbens dopamine depletions alter relative response allocation in a T-maze cost/benefit task

Behav Brain Res. 1996 Jan;74(1-2):189-97. doi: 10.1016/0166-4328(95)00151-4.


This experiment was conducted to study the role of nucleus accumbens dopamine in the performance of a novel T-maze cost/benefit procedure. Rats were trained on a T-maze task for food reinforcement. Under one of the test conditions, one arm of the maze contained a high reinforcement density (4 x 45 mg Bioserve pellets) and the other arm contained a low reinforcement density (2 x 45 mg pellets). A large vertical barrier (44 cm) was placed in the arm that contained the high density of food reinforcement. In the second test condition, a separate group of rats was trained in the same T-maze, in which there were 4 food pellets in the arm that was obstructed by the barrier, yet there were no food pellets in the unobstructed arm. After training rats received intra-accumbens of injections 6-hydroxydopamine or ascorbate vehicle. Nucleus accumbens dopamine depletions substantially decreased the number of selections of the obstructed arm with the high reinforcement density when the unobstructed arm also contained 2 food pellets. Dopamine-depleted rats in this condition showed increased selection of the no-barrier arm as well as decreased entry into the arm that contained the barrier. These effects persisted throughout the 3 weeks of post-surgical testing. Nevertheless, when the unobstructed arm contained no food pellets, and the only way to obtain food was to climb the barrier, rats with nucleus accumbens dopamine depletions showed only a modest effect on selections of the obstructed arm, which recovered by the second week of testing. Dopamine-depleted rats that were tested with food in the unobstructed arm showed significantly fewer barrier crossings than dopamine-depleted rats that were tested with no food in the unobstructed arm. Thus, the present findings are not consistent with the notion that nucleus accumbens dopamine depletion rendered the animals unable to climb the barrier, or set an absolute ceiling on the number of barrier crossings the animals could perform. Instead, the present results indicate that nucleus accumbens dopamine depletions affected the relative allocation of barrier climbing responses if alternative food sources were available.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Food
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Neostriatum / drug effects
  • Neostriatum / metabolism
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Oxidopamine / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Sympatholytics / pharmacology


  • Sympatholytics
  • Oxidopamine
  • Dopamine