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Science 321 (5896): 1690-1692

Copyright © 2008 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Reward-Predictive Cues Enhance Excitatory Synaptic Strength onto Midbrain Dopamine Neurons

Garret D. Stuber,1 Marianne Klanker,2 Bram de Ridder,1 M. Scott Bowers,1 Ruud N. Joosten,2 Matthijs G. Feenstra,2 Antonello Bonci1,3*

Abstract: Using sensory information for the prediction of future events is essential for survival. Midbrain dopamine neurons are activated by environmental cues that predict rewards, but the cellular mechanisms that underlie this phenomenon remain elusive. We used in vivo voltammetry and in vitro patch-clamp electrophysiology to show that both dopamine release to reward predictive cues and enhanced synaptic strength onto dopamine neurons develop over the course of cue-reward learning. Increased synaptic strength was not observed after stable behavioral responding. Thus, enhanced synaptic strength onto dopamine neurons may act to facilitate the transformation of neutral environmental stimuli to salient reward-predictive cues.

1 Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, Emeryville, CA 94608, USA.
2 Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, an Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
3 Wheeler Center for the Neurobiology of Drug Addiction, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: antonello.bonci{at}

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