Decoding neural circuits that control compulsive sucrose seeking.
ABSTRACT: The lateral hypothalamic (LH) projection to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) has been linked to reward processing, but the computations within the LH-VTA loop that give rise to specific aspects of behavior have been difficult to isolate. We show that LH-VTA neurons encode the learned action of seeking a reward, independent of reward availability. In contrast, LH neurons downstream of VTA encode reward-predictive cues and unexpected reward omission. We show that inhibiting the LH-VTA pathway reduces "compulsive" sucrose seeking but not food consumption in hungry mice. We reveal that the LH sends excitatory and inhibitory input onto VTA dopamine (DA) and GABA neurons, and that the GABAergic projection drives feeding-related behavior. Our study overlays information about the type, function, and connectivity of LH neurons and identifies a neural circuit that selectively controls compulsive sugar consumption, without preventing feeding necessary for survival, providing a potential target for therapeutic interventions for compulsive-overeating disorder.
Project description:Projections from the lateral hypothalamus (LH) to the ventral tegmental area (VTA), containing both GABAergic and glutamatergic components, encode conditioned responses and control compulsive reward-seeking behavior. GABAergic neurons in the LH have been shown to mediate appetitive and feeding-related behaviors. Here we show that the GABAergic component of the LH-VTA pathway supports positive reinforcement and place preference, while the glutamatergic component mediates place avoidance. In addition, our results indicate that photoactivation of these projections modulates other behaviors, such as social interaction and perseverant investigation of a novel object. We provide evidence that photostimulation of the GABAergic LH-VTA component, but not the glutamatergic component, increases dopamine (DA) release in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) via inhibition of local VTA GABAergic neurons. Our study clarifies how GABAergic LH inputs to the VTA can contribute to generalized behavioral activation across multiple contexts, consistent with a role in increasing motivational salience. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
Project description:Across species, motivated states such as food-seeking and consumption are essential for survival. The lateral hypothalamus (LH) is known to play a fundamental role in regulating feeding and reward-related behaviors. However, the contributions of neuronal subpopulations in the LH have not been thoroughly identified. Here we examine how lateral hypothalamic leptin receptor-expressing (LHLEPR) neurons, a subset of GABAergic cells, regulate motivation in mice. We find that LHLEPR neuronal activation significantly increases progressive ratio (PR) performance, while inhibition decreases responding. Moreover, we mapped LHLEPR axonal projections and demonstrated that they target the ventral tegmental area (VTA), form functional inhibitory synapses with non-dopaminergic VTA neurons, and their activation promotes motivation for food. Finally, we find that LHLEPR neurons also regulate motivation to obtain water, suggesting that they may play a generalized role in motivation. Together, these results identify LHLEPR neurons as modulators within a hypothalamic-ventral tegmental circuit that gates motivation.
Project description:Cues predicting rewards can gain motivational properties and initiate reward-seeking behaviors. Dopamine projections from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) are critical in regulating cue-motivated responding. Although, approximately one third of mesoaccumbal projection neurons are GABAergic, it is unclear how this population influences motivational processes and cue processing. This is largely due to our inability to pharmacologically probe circuit level contributions of VTA-GABA, which arises from diverse sources, including multiple GABA afferents, interneurons, and projection neurons. Here we used a combinatorial viral vector approach to restrict activating Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs) to GABA neurons in the VTA of wild-type rats trained to respond during a distinct audiovisual cue for sucrose. We measured different aspects of motivation for the cue or primary reinforcer, while chemogenetically activating either the VTA-GABA neurons or their projections to the NAc. Activation of VTA-GABA neurons decreased cue-induced responding and accuracy, while increasing latencies to respond to the cue and obtain the reward. Perseverative and spontaneous responses decreased, yet the rats persisted in entering the reward cup when the cue and reward were absent. However, activation of the VTA-GABA terminals in the accumbens had no effect on any of these behaviors. Together, we demonstrate that VTA-GABA neuron activity preferentially attenuates the ability of cues to trigger reward-seeking, while some aspects of the motivation for the reward itself are preserved. Additionally, the dense VTA-GABA projections to the NAc do not influence the motivational salience of the cue.
Project description:Eating is a learned process. Our desires for specific foods arise through experience. Both electrical stimulation and optogenetic studies have shown that increased activity in the lateral hypothalamus (LH) promotes feeding. Current dogma is that these effects reflect a role for LH neurons in the control of the core motivation to feed, and their activity comes under control of forebrain regions to elicit learned food-motivated behaviors. However, these effects could also reflect the storage of associative information about the cues leading to food in LH itself. Here, we present data from several studies that are consistent with a role for LH in learning. In the first experiment, we use a novel GAD-Cre rat to show that optogenetic inhibition of LH ?-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurons restricted to cue presentation disrupts the rats' ability to learn that a cue predicts food without affecting subsequent food consumption. In the second experiment, we show that this manipulation also disrupts the ability of a cue to promote food seeking after learning. Finally, we show that inhibition of the terminals of the LH GABA neurons in ventral-tegmental area (VTA) facilitates learning about reward-paired cues. These results suggest that the LH GABA neurons are critical for storing and later disseminating information about reward-predictive cues.
Project description:The ventral pallidum is centrally positioned within mesocorticolimbic reward circuits, and its dense projection to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) regulates neuronal activity there. However, the ventral pallidum is a heterogeneous structure, and how this complexity affects its role within wider reward circuits is unclear. We found that projections to VTA from the rostral ventral pallidum (RVP), but not the caudal ventral pallidum (CVP), were robustly Fos activated during cue-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking--a rat model of relapse in addiction. Moreover, designer receptor-mediated transient inactivation of RVP neurons, their terminals in VTA or functional connectivity between RVP and VTA dopamine neurons blocked the ability of drug-associated cues (but not a cocaine prime) to reinstate cocaine seeking. In contrast, CVP neuronal inhibition blocked cocaine-primed, but not cue-induced, reinstatement. This double dissociation in ventral pallidum subregional roles in drug seeking is likely to be important for understanding the mesocorticolimbic circuits underlying reward seeking and addiction.
Project description:Abnormal feeding often co-exists with compulsive behaviors, but the underlying neural basis remains unknown. Excessive self-grooming in rodents is associated with compulsivity. Here, we show that optogenetically manipulating the activity of lateral hypothalamus (LH) projections targeting the paraventricular hypothalamus (PVH) differentially promotes either feeding or repetitive self-grooming. Whereas selective activation of GABAergic LH?PVH inputs induces feeding, activation of glutamatergic inputs promotes self-grooming. Strikingly, targeted stimulation of GABAergic LH?PVH leads to rapid and reversible transitions to feeding from induced intense self-grooming, while activating glutamatergic LH?PVH or PVH neurons causes rapid and reversible transitions to self-grooming from voracious feeding induced by fasting. Further, specific inhibition of either LH?PVH GABAergic action or PVH neurons reduces self-grooming induced by stress. Thus, we have uncovered a parallel LH?PVH projection circuit for antagonistic control of feeding and self-grooming through dynamic modulation of PVH neuron activity, revealing a common neural pathway that underlies feeding and compulsive behaviors.
Project description:Actions motivated by rewards are often associated with risk of punishment. Little is known about the neural representation of punishment risk during reward-seeking behavior. We modeled this circumstance in rats by designing a task where actions were consistently rewarded but probabilistically punished. Spike activity and local field potentials were recorded during task performance simultaneously from VTA and mPFC, two reciprocally connected regions implicated in reward-seeking and aversive behaviors. At the single unit level, we found that ensembles of putative dopamine and non-dopamine VTA neurons and mPFC neurons encode the relationship between action and punishment. At the network level, we found that coherent theta oscillations synchronize VTA and mPFC in a bottom-up direction, effectively phase-modulating the neuronal spike activity in the two regions during punishment-free actions. This synchrony declined as a function of punishment probability, suggesting that during reward-seeking actions, risk of punishment diminishes VTA-driven neural synchrony between the two regions.
Project description:The prefrontal cortex is a critical neuroanatomical hub for controlling motivated behaviours across mammalian species. In addition to intra-cortical connectivity, prefrontal projection neurons innervate subcortical structures that contribute to reward-seeking behaviours, such as the ventral striatum and midline thalamus. While connectivity among these structures contributes to appetitive behaviours, how projection-specific prefrontal neurons encode reward-relevant information to guide reward seeking is unknown. Here we use in vivo two-photon calcium imaging to monitor the activity of dorsomedial prefrontal neurons in mice during an appetitive Pavlovian conditioning task. At the population level, these neurons display diverse activity patterns during the presentation of reward-predictive cues. However, recordings from prefrontal neurons with resolved projection targets reveal that individual corticostriatal neurons show response tuning to reward-predictive cues, such that excitatory cue responses are amplified across learning. By contrast, corticothalamic neurons gradually develop new, primarily inhibitory responses to reward-predictive cues across learning. Furthermore, bidirectional optogenetic manipulation of these neurons reveals that stimulation of corticostriatal neurons promotes conditioned reward-seeking behaviour after learning, while activity in corticothalamic neurons suppresses both the acquisition and expression of conditioned reward seeking. These data show how prefrontal circuitry can dynamically control reward-seeking behaviour through the opposing activities of projection-specific cell populations.
Project description:The dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) contains the largest group of serotonin-producing neurons in the brain and projects to regions controlling reward. Although pharmacological studies suggest that serotonin inhibits reward seeking, electrical stimulation of the DRN strongly reinforces instrumental behavior. Here, we provide a targeted assessment of the behavioral, anatomical, and electrophysiological contributions of serotonergic and nonserotonergic DRN neurons to reward processes. To explore DRN heterogeneity, we used a simultaneous two-vector knockout/optogenetic stimulation strategy, as well as cre-induced and cre-silenced vectors in several cre-expressing transgenic mouse lines. We found that the DRN is capable of reinforcing behavior primarily via nonserotonergic neurons, for which the main projection target is the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Furthermore, these nonserotonergic projections provide glutamatergic excitation of VTA dopamine neurons and account for a large majority of the DRN-VTA pathway. These findings help to resolve apparent discrepancies between the roles of serotonin versus the DRN in behavioral reinforcement.
Project description:Ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine neurons in the brain's reward circuit have a crucial role in mediating stress responses, including determining susceptibility versus resilience to social-stress-induced behavioural abnormalities. VTA dopamine neurons show two in vivo patterns of firing: low frequency tonic firing and high frequency phasic firing. Phasic firing of the neurons, which is well known to encode reward signals, is upregulated by repeated social-defeat stress, a highly validated mouse model of depression. Surprisingly, this pathophysiological effect is seen in susceptible mice only, with no apparent change in firing rate in resilient individuals. However, direct evidence--in real time--linking dopamine neuron phasic firing in promoting the susceptible (depression-like) phenotype is lacking. Here we took advantage of the temporal precision and cell-type and projection-pathway specificity of optogenetics to show that enhanced phasic firing of these neurons mediates susceptibility to social-defeat stress in freely behaving mice. We show that optogenetic induction of phasic, but not tonic, firing in VTA dopamine neurons of mice undergoing a subthreshold social-defeat paradigm rapidly induced a susceptible phenotype as measured by social avoidance and decreased sucrose preference. Optogenetic phasic stimulation of these neurons also quickly induced a susceptible phenotype in previously resilient mice that had been subjected to repeated social-defeat stress. Furthermore, we show differences in projection-pathway specificity in promoting stress susceptibility: phasic activation of VTA neurons projecting to the nucleus accumbens (NAc), but not to the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), induced susceptibility to social-defeat stress. Conversely, optogenetic inhibition of the VTA-NAc projection induced resilience, whereas inhibition of the VTA-mPFC projection promoted susceptibility. Overall, these studies reveal novel firing-pattern- and neural-circuit-specific mechanisms of depression.