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Dissociable roles of the nucleus accumbens D1 and D2 receptors in regulating cue-elicited approach-avoidance conflict decision-making

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Approach and avoidance decisions are made when an animal experiences a state of motivational conflict inflicted by stimuli imbued with both positive and negative valences. The nucleus accumbens (NAc), a site where valenced information and action selection converge, has recently been found to be critically involved in the resolution of approach-avoidance conflict. However, the individual roles of the region’s dopamine receptor D1 (D1R)- and D2 (D2R)-expressing medium spiny neurons (MSNs) in regulating conflict resolution have not been well established.


Here, we examined the roles of NAc D1R and D2R in cue-elicited approach-avoidance decision-making.


Using a conditioned mixed-valence conflict paradigm, rats were initially trained in a radial maze to associate separate visuotactile cues with sucrose reward, foot shock punishment, and no outcome. Following acquisition of the cue-outcome associations, rats were subjected to a conditioned approach-avoidance conflict scenario, in which they were presented with a maze arm containing a superimposition of the reward and punishment cues, and another arm containing neutral cues.


Post-training intra-NAc D1R antagonism (SCH23390) led to an avoidance of the arm containing the mixed-valence cue over the neutral arm, whereas intra-NAc D2R antagonism (sulpiride) resulted in rats exhibiting a preference for the mixed-valence arm.


Our results suggest that NAc D1R and D2R exert differential control over decision-making involving cue-elicited approach-avoidance conflict resolution.

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This work was supported by NSERC Discovery Grants 402642 and 240790 awarded to RI and SE.

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Correspondence to Rutsuko Ito.

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The study was carried out in accordance with the regulations of the Canadian Council of Animal Care and the approval of the University of Toronto Animal Care Committee.

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Nguyen, D., Fugariu, V., Erb, S. et al. Dissociable roles of the nucleus accumbens D1 and D2 receptors in regulating cue-elicited approach-avoidance conflict decision-making. Psychopharmacology 235, 2233–2244 (2018).

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