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Lateral NAc Shell D1 and D2 Neuronal Ensembles Concurrently Predict Licking Behavior and Categorize Sucrose Concentrations in a Context-dependent Manner

Authors: Alam Coss, Ernesto Suaste, Ranier Gutierrez
Publication: Neuroscience
Date: June 15, 2022
Link to article: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2022.04.022


The palatability and concentration of sweet foods promote hedonic feeding beyond homeostatic need. Understanding how neurons respond to sweet taste is thus of great importance. The dorsomedial nucleus accumbens shell (dNAcMed) is considered a “sensory sentinel,” promoting hedonic feeding. However, it is unknown how neurons in the lateral part (NAcLat) respond to oral sucrose stimulation. Using in vivo calcium imaging of individual D1 and D2 cells in NAcLat of mice performing behavioral licking tasks, we find that D1 and D2 neurons do not act as single homogeneous populations. Instead, their responses are organized into ensembles with context-dependent temporal dynamics around licking sucrose. At the macrostructure of licking (meals), D1 and D2 population activity recorded on the first day predict the licking behavior on subsequent days. However, at the level of the microstructure of licking (bouts), calcium activity increased concurrently in D1 and D2 neurons prior to licking bouts, whereas during licking, calcium signals decreased. Importantly, in a Brief Access Taste Task, calcium responses for D1 and D2 exhibit much more heterogeneity than during a freely licking task. Specifically, D1 and D2 neurons form distinct ensembles: some ramp up in anticipation of the first lick, some respond at the end of the taste-access period, and some categorize sucrose concentrations as low or high. Collectively, NAcLat D1 and D2 neurons are organized in ensembles that adapt to the behavioral context to monitor task-relevant events and sucrose concentrations.

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