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Ingo Willuhn, Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. Sherrington Library. Sherrington Building

Dopamine signals in the striatum are critical for reinforcement learning and motivated behavior. However, their regional specificity and precise information content are under active debate. Dopaminergic projections to the striatum are topographically organized. Thus, we quantified dopamine release in different striatal regions of unrestrained rats performing in a variety of behavioral paradigms with the aim to better understand the striatal landscape of dopamine signaling. We characterized dopamine signals in up to six principal striatal regions, in response to both appetitive and aversive stimuli and associated predictive cues, and investigated how stable such signals are across weeks of behavioral training and how they integrate learning, motivation, and movement. Together, our findings demonstrate a nuanced striatal landscape of unidirectional, but not uniform, dopamine signals, topographically encoding distinct aspects of motivational stimuli and their prediction, where absolute signal size and its modulation by stimulus value and subjective state was inter-regionally heterogeneous on a medial to lateral gradient.