Event Abstract

The Function of Dopamine Novelty Responses in the Brain

  • 1 NERF, Biomedical Sciences, Belgium

Dopamine has a well-established role in learning from reward, where it signals reward prediction errors. In addition, some dopaminergic neurons are activated upon perception of novel stimuli. Yet, it is still unknown whether these responses are driven by novelty or deviance. Therefore, we first examined the nature and extent of novelty responses in dopaminergic midbrain neurons, across substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) and ventral tegmental area (VTA), in awake mice. It has been reported that, in non-human primates, dopamine neurons of SNc get activated by rewards, punishments and salient sensory cues, while dopamine neurons of VTA get activated by rewards yet inhibited by punishments. However, whether dopamine neurons from VTA, SNc or both respond to novelty has not yet been reported. We addressed this question using fiber photometry in VTA and SNc of mice expressing GCaMP in dopamine neurons. Remarkably, we found dopaminergic neurons from both areas to respond to novelty but not to deviance. Since neurons from VTA and SNc differ considerably in their projection targets, this finding has profound implications for delineating the novelty circuits in the brain. Further we also found dopaminergic novelty responses not to correlate with behavioral novelty responses, suggesting that dopaminergic novelty responses are not involved in novelty-evoked orienting but are rather part of a separate novelty processing system. Upon characterizing novelty responses in dopamine, our focus is on examining the function of those responses. One hypothesis is that they serve a role in associative learning. In classical conditioning, it is well-known that novel cues become associated faster with outcomes than familiar cues. However, whether this results from novelty-evoked dopaminergic activity at the time of cue presentation is open to speculation. By manipulating dopaminergic activity during novel and familiar cue presentation, we will collect evidence for the hypothesis that dopamine activation at the time of cue presentation facilitates formation of new associations.


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Keywords: Dopamine, Fiber Photometry, optogenetics, novelty, deviance detection

Conference: 12th National Congress of the Belgian Society for Neuroscience, Gent, Belgium, 22 May - 22 May, 2017.

Presentation Type: Poster Presentation

Topic: Cognition and Behavior

Citation: Janse Van Rensburg A, Haesler S and Morrens J (2019). The Function of Dopamine Novelty Responses in the Brain. Front. Neurosci. Conference Abstract: 12th National Congress of the Belgian Society for Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnins.2017.94.00038

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Received: 27 Apr 2017; Published Online: 25 Jan 2019.

* Correspondence: Dr. Sebastian Haesler, NERF, Biomedical Sciences, Leuven, Belgium, sebastian.haesler@nerf.be