Original Investigations


, Volume 103, Issue 2, pp 187-196

First online:

Dopamine and conditioned reinforcement

I. Differential effects of amphetamine microinjections into striatal subregions
  • Ann E. KelleyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Harvard University
  • , Jill M. DelfsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Harvard University

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In the conditioned reinforcement paradigm, animals learn a new instrumental response reinforced solely by conditioned reward (a stimulus that has previously been associated with primary reward). It has been shown that psychostimulants potentiate responding for conditioned reward and there is evidence that the nucleus accumbens is involved in this effect. The present experiments extend this work and examine the roles of various striatal subregions in the enhancement of responding for conditioned reward. In the conditioning phase, hungry rats were trained to associate a light/click stimulus with food delivery, with no levers present in the operant chamber. In the test phase, two levers were present and responding on one provided conditioned reward (presentation of the compound stimulus but no food). During this phase, microinjections ofd-amphetamine (0, 0.2, 2.0, 20.0 µg/0.5 µl) were made into seven striatal subregions in separate groups of rats. Injection of amphetamine into the nucleus accumbens elicited a dose-dependent, selective increase in responding for CR. Injections into posterior regions of the striatum had no effect. Significant and selective increases in CR responding were noted after injections into two regions neighboring the nucleus accumbens, the anterior dorsal and the ventromedial striatum, although the magnitude of these effects was considerably less than that following accumbens injections. Injections into ventrolateral regions increased responding in some rats, but this effect was very variable and not selective for the CR lever. These results are interpreted as evidence for functional heterogeneity of the striatum with regard to enhancement of conditioned reinforcement. The findings are discussed in relation to the theory that increased dopaminergic activity in the nucleus accumbens results in amplification of the response to a previously learned reward-related signal.

Key words

Conditioned reinforcement Striatum Dopamine Amphetamine Nucleus accumbens Reward Rat