Neurons for hunger and thirst transmit a negative-valence teaching signal.
ABSTRACT: Homeostasis is a biological principle for regulation of essential physiological parameters within a set range. Behavioural responses due to deviation from homeostasis are critical for survival, but motivational processes engaged by physiological need states are incompletely understood. We examined motivational characteristics of two separate neuron populations that regulate energy and fluid homeostasis by using cell-type-specific activity manipulations in mice. We found that starvation-sensitive AGRP neurons exhibit properties consistent with a negative-valence teaching signal. Mice avoided activation of AGRP neurons, indicating that AGRP neuron activity has negative valence. AGRP neuron inhibition conditioned preference for flavours and places. Correspondingly, deep-brain calcium imaging revealed that AGRP neuron activity rapidly reduced in response to food-related cues. Complementary experiments activating thirst-promoting neurons also conditioned avoidance. Therefore, these need-sensing neurons condition preference for environmental cues associated with nutrient or water ingestion, which is learned through reduction of negative-valence signals during restoration of homeostasis.
Project description:The decision to engage in food-seeking behavior depends not only on homeostatic signals related to energy balance  but also on the presence of competing motivational drives  and learned cues signaling food availability . Agouti-related peptide (AgRP) neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus are critical for homeostatic feeding behavior. Selective ablation or silencing of AgRP neurons causes anorexia [4, 5], whereas selective stimulation in fed mice promotes feeding and learned instrumental actions to obtain food reward [5-8]. However, it remains unknown whether AgRP neuron stimulation is sufficient to drive food-seeking behavior in the continued presence of a competing motivational drive, such as threat avoidance, or whether it can drive discrimination between learned sensory cues associated with food reward and other outcomes. Here we trained mice to perform a sensory discrimination task involving appetitive and aversive visual cues. Food-restricted mice exhibited selective operant responding to food-predicting cues but largely failed to avoid cued shocks by moving onto a safety platform. The opposite was true following re-feeding. Strikingly, AgRP neuron photostimulation did not restore operant responding in fed mice when initiated within the threat-containing arena, but did when initiated in the home cage, prior to arena entry. These data suggest that the choice to pursue certain behaviors and not others (e.g., food seeking versus shock avoidance) can depend on the temporal primacy of one motivational drive relative to the onset of a competing drive.
Project description:Environmental cues, through Pavlovian learning, become conditioned stimuli that guide animals toward the acquisition of rewards (for example, food) that are necessary for survival. We tested the fundamental role of midbrain dopamine neurons in conferring predictive and motivational properties to cues, independent of external rewards. We found that brief phasic optogenetic excitation of dopamine neurons, when presented in temporal association with discrete sensory cues, was sufficient to instantiate those cues as conditioned stimuli that subsequently both evoked dopamine neuron activity on their own and elicited cue-locked conditioned behavior. Notably, we identified highly parcellated functions for dopamine neuron subpopulations projecting to different regions of striatum, revealing dissociable dopamine systems for the generation of incentive value and conditioned movement invigoration. Our results indicate that dopamine neurons orchestrate Pavlovian conditioning via functionally heterogeneous, circuit-specific motivational signals to create, gate, and shape cue-controlled behaviors.
Project description:The neuropeptides tachykinin2 (Tac2) and kisspeptin (Kiss1) in hypothalamic arcuate nucleus Kiss1 (Kiss1ARH) neurons are essential for pulsatile release of GnRH and reproduction. Since 17?-estradiol (E2) decreases Kiss1 and Tac2 mRNA expression in Kiss1ARH neurons, the role of Kiss1ARH neurons during E2-driven anorexigenic states and their coordination of POMC and NPY/AgRP feeding circuits have been largely ignored. Presently, we show that E2 augmented the excitability of Kiss1ARH neurons by amplifying Cacna1g, Hcn1 and Hcn2 mRNA expression and T-type calcium and h-currents. E2 increased Slc17a6 mRNA expression and glutamatergic synaptic input to arcuate neurons, which excited POMC and inhibited NPY/AgRP neurons via metabotropic receptors. Deleting Slc17a6 in Kiss1 neurons eliminated glutamate release and led to conditioned place preference for sucrose in E2-treated KO female mice. Therefore, the E2-driven increase in Kiss1 neuronal excitability and glutamate neurotransmission may play a key role in governing the motivational drive for palatable food in females.
Project description:Activation of Agouti-related peptide (AgRP) neurons potently promotes feeding, and chronically altering their activity also affects peripheral glucose homeostasis. We demonstrate that acute activation of AgRP neurons causes insulin resistance through impairment of insulin-stimulated glucose uptake into brown adipose tissue (BAT). AgRP neuron activation acutely reprograms gene expression in BAT toward a myogenic signature, including increased expression of myostatin. Interference with myostatin activity improves insulin sensitivity that was impaired by AgRP neurons activation. Optogenetic circuitry mapping reveals that feeding and insulin sensitivity are controlled by both distinct and overlapping projections. Stimulation of AgRP ? LHA projections impairs insulin sensitivity and promotes feeding while activation of AgRP ? anterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (aBNST)vl projections, distinct from AgRP ? aBNSTdm projections controlling feeding, mediate the effect of AgRP neuron activation on BAT-myostatin expression and insulin sensitivity. Collectively, our results suggest that AgRP neurons in mice induce not only eating, but also insulin resistance by stimulating expression of muscle-related genes in BAT, revealing a mechanism by which these neurons rapidly coordinate hunger states with glucose homeostasis.
Project description:The hypothalamic melanocortin system is known for its role in regulating energy homeostasis through it actions within hypothalamic brain centers. However, emerging evidence suggests that this system regulates addictive behaviors through signaling within mesolimbic neurons. Here, we hypothesized the melanocortin system modulates feeding behavior through its actions on mesolimbic neurons. In particular, we predicted that central administration of the melanocortin antagonist agouti-related peptide (AgRP) would activate midbrain dopamine neurons, increase mesolimbic dopamine turnover, and alter food seeking behaviors. We found that intraventricular administration of agouti-related peptide increased neuronal activation within midbrain dopamine neurons in addition to increasing dopamine turnover in the medial prefrontal cortex. Additionally, using the conditioned place preference paradigm to assay food seeking behavior, we report that central injection of agouti-related peptide attenuates the acquisition of a conditioned place preference for sucrose, but not high fat diet. These results suggest that the melanocortin system is capable of regulating mesocorticolimbic activity and food seeking behavior.
Project description:Physiological needs produce motivational drives, such as thirst and hunger, that regulate behaviors essential to survival. Hypothalamic neurons sense these needs and must coordinate relevant brainwide neuronal activity to produce the appropriate behavior. We studied dynamics from ~24,000 neurons in 34 brain regions during thirst-motivated choice behavior in 21 mice as they consumed water and became sated. Water-predicting sensory cues elicited activity that rapidly spread throughout the brain of thirsty animals. These dynamics were gated by a brainwide mode of population activity that encoded motivational state. After satiation, focal optogenetic activation of hypothalamic thirst-sensing neurons returned global activity to the pre-satiation state. Thus, motivational states specify initial conditions that determine how a brainwide dynamical system transforms sensory input into behavioral output.
Project description:Hunger is a hard-wired motivational state essential for survival. Agouti-related peptide (AgRP)-expressing neurons in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) at the base of the hypothalamus are crucial to the control of hunger. They are activated by caloric deficiency and, when naturally or artificially stimulated, they potently induce intense hunger and subsequent food intake. Consistent with their obligatory role in regulating appetite, genetic ablation or chemogenetic inhibition of AgRP neurons decreases feeding. Excitatory input to AgRP neurons is important in caloric-deficiency-induced activation, and is notable for its remarkable degree of caloric-state-dependent synaptic plasticity. Despite the important role of excitatory input, its source(s) has been unknown. Here, through the use of Cre-recombinase-enabled, cell-specific neuron mapping techniques in mice, we have discovered strong excitatory drive that, unexpectedly, emanates from the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, specifically from subsets of neurons expressing thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP, also known as ADCYAP1). Chemogenetic stimulation of these afferent neurons in sated mice markedly activates AgRP neurons and induces intense feeding. Conversely, acute inhibition in mice with caloric-deficiency-induced hunger decreases feeding. Discovery of these afferent neurons capable of triggering hunger advances understanding of how this intense motivational state is regulated.
Project description:The brain regulates food intake by processing sensory cues and peripheral physiological signals, but the neural basis of this integration remains unclear. Hypothalamic, agouti-related protein (AgRP)-expressing neurons are critical regulators of food intake. AgRP neuron activity is high during hunger and is rapidly reduced by the sight and smell of food. Here, we reveal two distinct components of AgRP neuron activity regulation: a rapid but transient sensory-driven signal and a slower, sustained calorie-dependent signal. We discovered that nutrients are necessary and sufficient for sustained reductions in AgRP neuron activity and that activity reductions are proportional to the calories obtained. This change in activity is recapitulated by exogenous administration of gut-derived satiation signals. Furthermore, we showed that the nutritive value of food trains sensory systems-in a single trial-to drive rapid, anticipatory AgRP neuron activity inhibition. Together, these data demonstrate that nutrients are the primary regulators of AgRP neuron activity.
Project description:Eating and sleeping represent two mutually exclusive behaviors that satisfy distinct homeostatic needs. Because an animal cannot eat and sleep at the same time, brain systems that regulate energy homeostasis are likely to influence sleep/wake behavior. Indeed, previous studies indicate that animals adjust sleep cycles around periods of food need and availability. Furthermore, hormones that affect energy homeostasis also affect sleep/wake states: the orexigenic hormone ghrelin promotes wakefulness, and the anorexigenic hormones leptin and insulin increase the duration of slow-wave sleep. However, whether neural populations that regulate feeding can influence sleep/wake states is unknown. The hypothalamic arcuate nucleus contains two neuronal populations that exert opposing effects on energy homeostasis: agouti-related protein (AgRP)-expressing neurons detect caloric need and orchestrate food-seeking behavior, whereas activity in pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC)-expressing neurons induces satiety. We tested the hypotheses that AgRP neurons affect sleep homeostasis by promoting states of wakefulness, whereas POMC neurons promote states of sleep. Indeed, optogenetic or chemogenetic stimulation of AgRP neurons in mice promoted wakefulness while decreasing the quantity and integrity of sleep. Inhibition of AgRP neurons rescued sleep integrity in food-deprived mice, highlighting the physiological importance of AgRP neuron activity for the suppression of sleep by hunger. Conversely, stimulation of POMC neurons promoted sleep states and decreased sleep fragmentation in food-deprived mice. Interestingly, we also found that sleep deprivation attenuated the effects of AgRP neuron activity on food intake and wakefulness. These results indicate that homeostatic feeding neurons can hierarchically affect behavioral outcomes, depending on homeostatic need.
Project description:Dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) have been traditionally studied for their roles in reward-related motivation or drug addiction. Here we study how the VTA dopamine neuron population may process fearful and negative experiences as well as reward information in freely behaving mice. Using multi-tetrode recording, we find that up to 89% of the putative dopamine neurons in the VTA exhibit significant activation in response to the conditioned tone that predict food reward, while the same dopamine neuron population also respond to the fearful experiences such as free fall and shake events. The majority of these VTA putative dopamine neurons exhibit suppression and offset-rebound excitation, whereas ?25% of the recorded putative dopamine neurons show excitation by the fearful events. Importantly, VTA putative dopamine neurons exhibit parametric encoding properties: their firing change durations are proportional to the fearful event durations. In addition, we demonstrate that the contextual information is crucial for these neurons to respectively elicit positive or negative motivational responses by the same conditioned tone. Taken together, our findings suggest that VTA dopamine neurons may employ the convergent encoding strategy for processing both positive and negative experiences, intimately integrating with cues and environmental context.