Responses of tonically discharging neurons in the monkey striatum to primary rewards delivered during different behavioral states

Exp Brain Res. 1997 Oct;116(3):456-66. doi: 10.1007/pl00005773.


In the primate striatum, the tonically discharging neurons respond to conditioned stimuli associated with reward. We investigated whether these neurons respond to the reward itself and how changes in the behavioral context in which the reward is delivered might influence their responsiveness. A total of 286 neurons in the caudate nucleus and putamen were studied in two awake macaque monkeys while liquid reward was delivered in three behavioral situations: (1) an instrumental task, in which reward was delivered upon execution of a visually triggered arm movement; (2) a classically conditioned task, in which reward was delivered 1 s after a visual signal; (3) a free reward situation, in which reward was delivered at irregular time intervals outside of any conditioning task. The monkeys' uncertainty about the time at which reward will be delivered was assessed by monitoring their mouth movements. A larger proportion of neurons responsive to reward was observed in the free reward situation (86%) than in the classically conditioned (57%) and instrumental tasks (37%). Among the neurons tested in all situations (n = 78), 24% responded to reward regardless of the situation and 65% in only one or two situations. Responses selective for one particular situation occurred exclusively in the free reward situation. When the reward was delivered immediately after the visual signal in the classically conditioned task, most of the neurons reduced or completely lost their responses to reward, and other neurons remained responsive. Conversely, neuronal responses invariably persisted when reward was delivered later than 1 s after the visual signal. This is the first report that tonic striatal neurons might display responses directly to primary rewards. The neuronal responses were strongly influenced by the behavioral context in which the animals received the reward. An important factor appears to be the timing of reward. These neurons might therefore contribute to a general aspect of behavioral reactivity of the subject to relevant stimuli.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology
  • Corpus Striatum / cytology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Reward