Student Name: Tara Aitken
Faculty Mentor: Kate Wassum
Faculty Mentor Department: PSYCHOLOGY
Abstract Title: Contribution of Nucleus Accumbens Core Cholinergic Interneuron Activity to Cue-Motivated Behavior
Author’s List: TARA J. AITKEN, Anne L. Collins, Sean B. Ostlund, and Kate M. Wassum
Abstract: Environmental reward-predictive stimuli provide a major source of motivation for reward-seeking behaviors. Considerable evidence has implicated the nucleus accumbens core (NAc) and dopamine signaling therein in cue-motivated behavior, but relatively little is known about how other neuromodulatory systems contribute. Our recent data suggest that the NAc cholinergic system may also critically modulate cue-motivated behavior, possibly through terminally modulating dopamine release. Cholinergic interneurons (CINs) provide the primary source of acetylcholine acting at these dopamine terminal receptors and activity of these neurons has been shown to correlate with the presentation of reward-predictive stimuli, and motivated behavior. Therefore, here we examined the function of these NAc CINs in cue-motivated behavior using a Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer (PIT) task designed to assess the motivating influence of a food-predictive cue over a food-seeking action. Inhibitory DREADDs were used to inactivate NAc CINs during a PIT test. Preliminary data suggest that attenuation of NAc CIN activity augmented cue-induced invigoration of reward seeking, suggesting that NAc CIN activity may modulate the expression of cue-motivated behavior. Follow-up testing suggest that NAc CINs might be selectively involved in cue-motivated behavior, rather than general motivated behavior or consumption behavior. These data contribute to understanding the neural mechanisms that could lead to maladaptive decision making, such as in food addiction.