The observation of cue-directed behavior in sign-tracking and goal-tracking rats following implantation of designer receptors
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Increasing evidence that ordinary cues paired with reward can acquire value indicates that the incentive properties of rewards are capable of being transferred onto cues, making them incentive stimuli. Studies have begun focusing on isolating components of the reward circuit involved in imparting incentive salience onto a cue with the goal of identifying rats with susceptibilities to drug addiction. Such studies have found that under a Pavlovian Conditioned Approach (PCA) paradigm, sign-tracking rats are at increased risk for instilling incentive salience onto conditioned stimuli and for engaging in drug-related behavior. With better understanding of the neural basis of sign tracking and its behavioral aspect of drug seeking comes a better chance of discovering treatment methods for drug addiction. This study examines the potential behavioral outcomes of altering the pathway starting in the Ventral Pallidum (VP) and ending in the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) by using Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs). While there is some evidence of an interaction between the effects of DREADDs on this neural circuit and behavior, not all results presented here reach significance. Additional studies are needed to confirm the hypothesis of specific inhibitory DREADDs from the VP to the VTA causing increased amounts of sign tracking in rats as a way to assess whether this pathway is implicated in predisposing rats to sign-tracking behavior.