Dopaminergic and prefrontal dynamics co-determine mouse decisions in a spatial gambling task

Cell Report 2023

Elise Bousseyrol, Steve Didienne, Samir Takillah, Clement Solié, Maxime Come, Tarek Ahmed Yahia, Sarah Mondoloni, Eléonore Vicq, Ludovic Tricoire, Alexandre Mourot, Jérémie Naudé, Philippe Faure


The neural mechanisms by which animals initiate goal-directed actions, choose between options, or explore opportunities remain unknown. Here, we develop a spatial gambling task in which mice, to obtain intracranial self-stimulation rewards, self-determine the initiation, direction, vigor, and pace of their actions based on their knowledge of the outcomes. Using electrophysiological recordings, pharmacology, and optogenetics, we identify a sequence of oscillations and firings in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and prefrontal cortex (PFC) that co-encodes and co-determines self-initiation and choices. This sequence appeared with learning as an uncued realignment of spontaneous dynamics. Interactions between the structures varied with the reward context, particularly the uncertainty associated with the different options. We suggest that self-generated choices arise from a distributed circuit based on an OFC-VTA core determining whether to wait for or initiate actions, while the PFC is specifically engaged by reward uncertainty in action selection and pace.

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