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Reward devaluation attenuates cue-evoked sucrose seeking and is associated with the elimination of excitability differences between ensemble and non-ensemble neurons in the nucleus accumbens

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posted on 2023-06-07, 08:31 authored by Meike C Sieburg, Joseph J Ziminski, Gabriella Margetts-Smith, Hayley M Reeve, Leonie S Brebner, Hans CrombagHans Crombag, Eisuke KoyaEisuke Koya
Animals must learn relationships between foods and the environmental cues that predict their availability for survival. Such cue-food associations are encoded in sparse sets of neurons or ‘neuronal ensembles’ in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). For these ensemble-encoded, cue-controlled appetitive responses to remain adaptive, they must allow for their dynamic updating depending on acute changes in internal states such as physiological hunger or the perceived desirability of food. However, how these neuronal ensembles are recruited and physiologically modified following the update of such learned associations is unclear. To investigate this, we examined the effects of devaluation on ensemble plasticity at the levels of recruitment, intrinsic excitability, and synaptic physiology in sucrose conditioned Fos-GFP mice that express green fluorescent protein (GFP) in recently activated neurons. Neuronal ensemble activation patterns and their physiology were examined using immunohistochemistry and slice electrophysiology, respectively. Reward-specific devaluation following four days of ad lib sucrose consumption, but not general caloric devaluation, attenuated cue-evoked sucrose seeking. This suggests that changes in the hedonic and/or incentive value of sucrose, and not caloric need drove this behavior. Moreover, devaluation attenuated the size of the neuronal ensemble recruited by the cue in the NAc shell. Finally, it eliminated the relative enhanced excitability of ensemble (GFP+) neurons against non-ensemble (GFP–) neurons observed under Non-devalued conditions, and did not induce any ensemble-specific changes in excitatory synaptic physiology. Our findings provide new insights into neuronal ensemble mechanisms that underlie the changes in the incentive and/or hedonic impact of cues that support adaptive food seeking.


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