Enhanced stimulus-reward learning by intra-amygdala administration of a D3 dopamine receptor agonist

P K Hitchcott, C M Bonardi, G D Phillips

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


The amygdala is considered to be a critical neural substrate underlying the formation of stimulus-reward associations, and is known to receive substantial innervation from dopaminergic neurons located within the ventral mesencephalon. However, relatively little is known about the function of the mesoamygdaloid dopamine projection in stimulus-reward learning. Recently, we have found post-session intra-amygdala microinjections of d-amphetamine to enhance appetitive Pavlovian conditioning as assessed in a discriminative approach task. In the present study, we have examined the effects of dopamine receptor agonists possessing relative selectivity for the D1, D2 and D3 receptor subtypes in order to examine more fully the role of the mesoamygdaloid dopamine projection in stimulus-reward learning. Thus, subjects were trained to associated an initially neutral stimulus (CS+) with 10% sucrose reward (US). A second, control stimulus (CS-) was also presented but never paired with sucrose reward. In order to measure specifically the conditioned response to CS+/CS- presentation, responding during CS and US presentations was measured separately. Immediately following each training session, subjects received bilateral intra-amygdala infusion of 0.1, 1 or 10 nmol/side of SKF-38393, quinpirole or 7-OH-DPAT. Infusions of SKF-38393 or quinpirole were without effect on CS+ approach. However, post-session intra-amygdala infusions of 7-OH-DPAT enhanced selectively CS+ approach in a dose-dependent fashion. No dose of any drug affected CS- approach, US behaviours, or measures of extraneous behaviour. Subsequent acquisition of a novel conditioned instrumental response was also unaffected. Thus, the present data indicate a selective involvement of the D3 dopamine receptor subtype in the modulation of stimulus-reward learning by the mesoamygdaloid dopamine projection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-248
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Early online date19 Apr 1997
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • 2,3,4,5-Tetrahydro-7,8-dihydroxy-1-phenyl-1H-3-benzazepine/administration & dosage
  • Amygdala/anatomy & histology
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Operant/drug effects
  • Discrimination Learning/drug effects
  • Dopamine Agonists/administration & dosage
  • Injections
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Quinpirole/administration & dosage
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2/agonists
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • Reward
  • Tetrahydronaphthalenes/administration & dosage


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