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Dopamine signaling is implicated in reinforcement learning, but the neural substrates targeted by dopamine are poorly understood. We bypassed dopamine signaling itself and tested how optogenetic activation of dopamine D1 or D2 receptor–expressing striatal projection neurons influenced reinforcement learning in mice. Stimulating D1 receptor–expressing neurons induced persistent reinforcement, whereas stimulating D2 receptor–expressing neurons induced transient punishment, indicating that activation of these circuits is sufficient to modify the probability of performing future actions.


Alexxai V Kravitz, Lynne D Tye, Anatol C Kreitzer. Distinct roles for direct and indirect pathway striatal neurons in reinforcement. Nature neuroscience. 2012 Jun;15(6):816-8

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PMID: 22544310

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