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‘Ventral tegmental dopamine neurons signal force vector dynamics during Pavlovian conditioning and performance’


Konstantin Bakhurin

The dopamine (DA) neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are thought to play a critical role in motivated behavior, yet precise understanding of their involvement remains elusive. Previous work identified relationships between force exerted in specific directions and VTA dopamine activity in head-fixed animals, but many known characteristics of DA neuron firing during associative learning have not been reconciled with the natural movements produced by animal subjects in such tasks. Here we recorded and optotagged hundreds of DA neurons during Pavlovian conditioning in mice head-fixed in an apparatus that continuously monitors forces produced when animals attempt to move the head. Through this work, it suggests that changes in VTA DA activity during Pavlovian conditioning may be critical for dynamic changes in perfor mance rather than a reward prediction error as conventionally believed. The speaker is Konstantin Bakhurin, who is a current post-doc student at Duke University in the Psychology and Neuroscience department. Masks are not required during attendance and lunch will be served indoors after the seminar has ended.