Risky decision-making predicts dopamine release dynamics in nucleus accumbens shell


The risky decision-making task (RDT) measures risk-taking in a rat model by assessing preference between a small, safe reward and a large reward with increasing risk of punishment (mild foot shock). It is well-established that dopaminergic drugs modulate risk-taking; however, little is known about how differences in baseline phasic dopamine signaling drive individual differences in risk preference. Here, we used in vivo fixed potential amperometry in male Long-Evans rats to test if phasic nucleus accumbens shell (NACs) dopamine dynamics are associated with risk-taking. We observed a positive correlation between medial forebrain bundle-evoked dopamine release in the NACs and risky decision-making, suggesting that risk-taking is associated with elevated dopamine sensitivity. Moreover, “risk-taking” subjects were found to demonstrate greater phasic dopamine release than “risk-averse” subjects. Risky decision-making also predicted enhanced sensitivity to the dopamine reuptake inhibitor nomifensine, and elevated autoreceptor function. Importantly, this hyperdopaminergic phenotype was selective for risky decision-making, as delay discounting performance was not predictive of phasic dopamine release or dopamine supply. These data identify phasic NACs dopamine release as a possible therapeutic target for alleviating the excessive risk-taking observed across multiple forms of psychopathology.

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We would like to thank Amber Woods, Haleigh Joyner, Samantha Morrison, Andrew Starnes, and Alan Rasheed for technical assistance.

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Freels, T.G., Gabriel, D.B.K., Lester, D.B. et al. Risky decision-making predicts dopamine release dynamics in nucleus accumbens shell. Neuropsychopharmacol. 45, 266–275 (2020) doi:10.1038/s41386-019-0527-0

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