The Arousal-motor Hypothesis of Dopamine Function: Evidence that Dopamine Facilitates Reward Seeking in Part by Maintaining Arousal

Marcin Kaźmierczak, Saleem M. Nicola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Dopamine facilitates approach to reward via its actions on dopamine receptors in the nucleus accumbens. For example, blocking either D1 or D2 dopamine receptors in the accumbens reduces the proportion of reward-predictive cues to which rats respond with cued approach. Recent evidence indicates that accumbens dopamine also promotes wakefulness and arousal, but the relationship between dopamine's roles in arousal and reward seeking remains unexplored. Here, we show that the ability of systemic or intra-accumbens injections of the D1 antagonist SCH23390 to reduce cued approach to reward depends on the animal's state of arousal. Handling the animal, a manipulation known to increase arousal, was sufficient to reverse the behavioral effects of the antagonist. In addition, SCH23390 reduced spontaneous locomotion and increased time spent in sleep postures, both consistent with reduced arousal, but also increased time spent immobile in postures inconsistent with sleep. In contrast, the ability of the D2 antagonist haloperidol to reduce cued approach was not reversible by handling. Haloperidol reduced spontaneous locomotion but did not increase sleep postures, instead increasing immobility in non-sleep postures. We place these results in the context of the extensive literature on dopamine's contributions to behavior, and propose the arousal-motor hypothesis. This novel synthesis, which proposes that two main functions of dopamine are to promote arousal and facilitate motor behavior, accounts both for our findings and many previous behavioral observations that have led to disparate and conflicting conclusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-103
Number of pages40
JournalNeuroscience
Volume499
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

Keywords

  • Nucleus accumbens
  • arousal
  • caffeine
  • conditioned approach
  • reward-seeking behavior
  • sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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