Project description:Medial temporal lobe (MTL) dependent long-term memory for novel events is modulated by a circuitry that also responds to reward and includes the ventral striatum, dopaminergic midbrain, and medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC). This common neural network may reflect a functional link between novelty and reward whereby novelty motivates exploration in the search for rewards; a link also termed novelty "exploration bonus." We used fMRI in a scene encoding paradigm to investigate the interaction between novelty and reward with a focus on neural signals akin to an exploration bonus. As expected, reward related long-term memory for the scenes (after 24 hours) strongly correlated with activity of MTL, ventral striatum, and substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA). Furthermore, the hippocampus showed a main effect of novelty, the striatum showed a main effect of reward, and the mOFC signalled both novelty and reward. An interaction between novelty and reward akin to an exploration bonus was found in the hippocampus. These data suggest that MTL novelty signals are interpreted in terms of their reward-predicting properties in the mOFC, which biases striatal reward responses. The striatum together with the SN/VTA then regulates MTL-dependent long-term memory formation and contextual exploration bonus signals in the hippocampus.
Project description:Leptin is an anorexigenic hormone, important in the regulation of body weight. Leptin plays a role in food reward, feeding, locomotion and anxiety. Leptin receptors (LepR) are expressed in many brain areas, including the midbrain. In most studies that target the midbrain, either all LepR neurons of the midbrain or those of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) were targeted, but the role of substantia nigra (SN) LepR neurons has not been investigated. These studies have reported contradicting results regarding motivational behavior for food reward, feeding and locomotion. Since not all midbrain LepR mediated behaviors can be explained by LepR neurons in the VTA alone, we hypothesized that SN LepR neurons may provide further insight. We first characterized SN LepR and VTA LepR expression, which revealed LepR expression mainly on DA neurons. To further understand the role of midbrain LepR neurons in body weight regulation, we chemogenetically activated VTA LepR or SN LepR neurons in LepR-cre mice and tested for motivational behavior, feeding and locomotion. Activation of VTA LepR neurons in food restricted mice decreased motivation for food reward (p=0.032) and food intake (p=0.020), but not locomotion. In contrast, activation of SN LepR neurons in food restricted mice decreased locomotion (p=0.025), but not motivation for food reward or food intake. Our results provide evidence that VTA LepR and SN LepR neurons serve different functions, i.e. activation of VTA LepR neurons modulated motivation for food reward and feeding, while SN LepR neurons modulated locomotor activity.
Project description:Reward motivation is known to modulate memory encoding, and this effect depends on interactions between the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area complex (SN/VTA) and the hippocampus. It is unknown, however, whether these interactions influence offline neural activity in the human brain that is thought to promote memory consolidation. Here we used fMRI to test the effect of reward motivation on post-learning neural dynamics and subsequent memory for objects that were learned in high- and low-reward motivation contexts. We found that post-learning increases in resting-state functional connectivity between the SN/VTA and hippocampus predicted preferential retention of objects that were learned in high-reward contexts. In addition, multivariate pattern classification revealed that hippocampal representations of high-reward contexts were preferentially reactivated during post-learning rest, and the number of hippocampal reactivations was predictive of preferential retention of items learned in high-reward contexts. These findings indicate that reward motivation alters offline post-learning dynamics between the SN/VTA and hippocampus, providing novel evidence for a potential mechanism by which reward could influence memory consolidation.
Project description:Animal studies indicate that hippocampal representations of environmental context modulate reward-related processing in the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA), a major origin of dopamine in the brain. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in humans, we investigated the neural specificity of context-reward associations under conditions where the presence of perceptually similar neutral contexts imposed high demands on a putative hippocampal function, pattern separation. The design also allowed us to investigate how contextual reward enhances long-term memory for embedded neutral objects. SN/VTA activity underpinned specific context-reward associations in the face of perceptual similarity. A reward-related enhancement of long-term memory was restricted to the condition where the rewarding and the neutral contexts were perceptually similar, and in turn was linked to co-activation of the hippocampus (subfield DG/CA3) and SN/VTA. Thus, an ability of contextual reward to enhance memory for focal objects is closely linked to context-related engagement of hippocampal-SN/VTA circuitry.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Enhanced drug-related reward sensitivity accompanied by impaired sensitivity to non-drug related rewards in the mesolimbic dopamine system are thought to underlie the broad motivational deficits and dysfunctional decision-making frequently observed in cocaine use disorder (CUD). Effective approaches to modify this imbalance and reinstate non-drug reward responsiveness are urgently needed. Here, we examined whether cocaine users (CU) can use mental imagery of non-drug rewards to self-regulate the ventral tegmental area and substantia nigra (VTA/SN). We expected that obsessive and compulsive thoughts about cocaine consumption would hamper the ability to self-regulate the VTA/SN activity and tested if real-time fMRI (rtfMRI) neurofeedback (NFB) can improve self-regulation of the VTA/SN.<h4>Methods</h4>Twenty-two CU and 28 healthy controls (HC) were asked to voluntarily up-regulate VTA/SN activity with non-drug reward imagery alone, or combined with rtfMRI NFB.<h4>Results</h4>On a group level, HC and CU were able to activate the dopaminergic midbrain and other reward regions with reward imagery. In CU, the individual ability to self-regulate the VTA/SN was reduced in those with more severe obsessive-compulsive drug use. NFB enhanced the effect of reward imagery but did not result in transfer effects at the end of the session.<h4>Conclusion</h4>CU can voluntary activate their reward system with non-drug reward imagery and improve this ability with rtfMRI NFB. Combining mental imagery and rtFMRI NFB has great potential for modifying the maladapted reward sensitivity and reinstating non-drug reward responsiveness. This motivates further work to examine the use of rtfMRI NFB in the treatment of CUD.
Project description:Reward-related memories are essential for adaptive behavior and evolutionary fitness, but they are also a core component of maladaptive brain diseases such as addiction. Reward learning requires dopamine neurons located in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which encode relationships between predictive cues and future rewards. Recent evidence suggests that epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA methylation, are essential regulators of neuronal plasticity and experience-driven behavioral change. However, the role of epigenetic mechanisms in reward learning is poorly understood. Here we show that the formation of reward-related associative memories in rats upregulates key plasticity genes in the VTA, which are correlated with memory strength and associated with gene-specific changes in DNA methylation. Moreover, DNA methylation in the VTA is required for the formation of stimulus-reward associations. These results provide the first evidence that that activity-dependent methylation and demethylation of DNA is an essential substrate for the behavioral and neuronal plasticity driven by reward-related experiences.
Project description:As one of the two main sources of brain dopamine, the ventral tegmental area (VTA) is important for several complex functions, including motivation, reward prediction, and contextual learning. Although many studies have identified the potential neural substrate of VTA dopaminergic activity in reward prediction functions during Pavlovian and operant conditioning tasks, less is understood about the role of VTA neuronal activity in motivated behaviors and more naturalistic forms of context-dependent learning. Therefore, VTA neural activity was recorded as rats performed a spatial memory task under varying contextual conditions. In addition to reward- and reward predicting cue-related firing commonly observed during conditioning tasks, the activity of a large proportion of VTA neurons was also related to the velocity and/or acceleration of the animal's movement. It is important to note that movement-related activity was strongest when rats displayed more motivation to obtain reward. Furthermore, many cells displayed a dual code of movement- and reward-related activity. These two modes of firing, however, were differentially regulated by context information, suggesting that movement- and reward-related firing are two independently regulated modes of VTA neuronal activity and may serve separate functions.
Project description:The behavioral activation system (BAS) and the behavioral inhibition system (BIS) have been proposed to relate to stable traits that predict inter-individual differences in motivation. Prior reports point dopamine (DA) pathways, mainly including ventral tegmental area (VTA) and substantia nigra (SN), implicate in subserving reward-related functions associated with BAS and inhibitory functions related with BIS. However, as an important factor that affects DA releasing, it remains an open question whether the ovarian hormones may also be related to BIS/BAS. Here, to investigate effects of the estradiol (E2) and progesterone (PROG) on BIS/BAS and related DA pathways, we employed a BIS/BAS scale and the resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during the late follicular phase (FP) and the mid-luteal phase (LP). On the behavioral level, when women had high PROG levels, their E2 levels were found positively correlated with BIS scores, but those women whose PROG levels were low, their E2 levels were negative correlation with BIS scores. On the neural level, we demonstrated BAS was related with the VTA pathway, included brain reward regions of nucleus accumbens (NAc) and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Meanwhile, the BIS was correlated with the SN-dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) pathway. ROI-based resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) analyses further revealed that, RSFC between the SN and dlPFC was modulated by ovarian hormones. With higher PROG levels, increased E2 levels among women were accompanied by stronger RSFC of the SN-dlPFC, but when PROG levels were low, E2 levels were negatively correlated with the SN-dlPFC RSFC. These findings revealed a combined enhancement effect of E2 and PROG on BIS, and the SN-dlPFC pathway was mainly involved in this process.
Project description:Effective error-driven learning benefits from scaling of prediction errors to reward variability. Such behavioral adaptation may be facilitated by neurons coding prediction errors relative to the standard deviation (SD) of reward distributions. To investigate this hypothesis, we required participants to predict the magnitude of upcoming reward drawn from distributions with different SDs. After each prediction, participants received a reward, yielding trial-by-trial prediction errors. In line with the notion of adaptive coding, BOLD response slopes in the Substantia Nigra/Ventral Tegmental Area (SN/VTA) and ventral striatum were steeper for prediction errors occurring in distributions with smaller SDs. SN/VTA adaptation was not instantaneous but developed across trials. Adaptive prediction error coding was paralleled by behavioral adaptation, as reflected by SD-dependent changes in learning rate. Crucially, increased SN/VTA and ventral striatal adaptation was related to improved task performance. These results suggest that adaptive coding facilitates behavioral adaptation and supports efficient learning.
Project description:Neocortical-hippocampal interactions support new episodic (event) memories, but there is conflicting evidence about the dependence of remote episodic memories on the hippocampus. In line with systems consolidation and computational theories of episodic memory, evidence from model organisms suggests that the cornu ammonis 3 (CA3) hippocampal subfield supports recent, but not remote, episodic retrieval. In this study, we demonstrated that recent and remote memories were susceptible to a loss of episodic detail in human participants with focal bilateral damage to CA3. Graph theoretic analyses of 7.0-Tesla resting-state fMRI data revealed that CA3 damage disrupted functional integration across the medial temporal lobe (MTL) subsystem of the default network. The loss of functional integration in MTL subsystem regions was predictive of autobiographical episodic retrieval performance. We conclude that human CA3 is necessary for the retrieval of episodic memories long after their initial acquisition and functional integration of the default network is important for autobiographical episodic memory performance.