Dopamine receptor blockade attenuates the general incentive motivational effects of noncontingently delivered rewards and reward-paired cues without affecting their ability to bias action selection.

Research paper by Sean B SB Ostlund, Nigel T NT Maidment

Indexed on: 16 Sep '11Published on: 16 Sep '11Published in: Neuropsychopharmacology


Environmental cues affect our behavior in a variety of ways. Despite playing an invaluable role in guiding our daily activities, such cues also appear to trigger the harmful, compulsive behaviors that characterize addiction and other disorders of behavioral control. In instrumental conditioning, rewards and reward-paired cues bias action selection and invigorate reward-seeking behaviors, and appear to do so through distinct neurobehavioral processes. Although reward-paired cues are known to invigorate performance through a dopamine-dependent incentive motivational process, it is not known if dopamine also mediates the influence of rewards and reward-paired cues over action selection. The current study contrasted the effects of systemic administration of the nonspecific dopamine receptor antagonist flupentixol on response invigoration and action bias in Pavlovian-instrumental transfer, a test of cue-elicited responding, and in instrumental reinstatement, a test of noncontingent reward-elicited responding. Hungry rats were trained on two different stimulus-outcome relationships (eg, tone-grain pellets and noise-sucrose solution) and two different action-outcome relationships (eg, left press-grain and right press-sucrose). At test, we found that flupentixol pretreatment blocked the response invigoration generated by the cues but spared their ability to bias action selection to favor the action whose outcome was signaled by the cue being presented. The response-biasing influence of noncontingent reward deliveries was also unaffected by flupentixol. Interestingly, although flupentixol had a modest effect on the immediate response invigoration produced by those rewards, it was particularly potent in countering the lingering enhancement of responding produced by multiple reward deliveries. These findings indicate that dopamine mediates the general incentive motivational effects of noncontingent rewards and reward-paired cues but does not support their ability to bias action selection.