Intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) activates the neural pathways that mediate reward, including dopaminergic terminal areas such as the nucleus accumbens (NAc). However, a direct role of dopamine in ICSS-mediated reward has been questioned. Here, simultaneous voltammetric and electrophysiological recordings from the same electrode reveal that, at certain sites, the onset of anticipatory dopamine surges and changes in neuronal firing patterns during ICSS are coincident, whereas sites lacking dopamine changes also lack patterned firing. Intrashell microinfusion of a D1, but not a D2 receptor antagonist, blocks ICSS. An iontophoresis approach was implemented to explore the effect of dopamine antagonists on firing patterns without altering behavior. Similar to the microinfusion experiments, ICSS-related firing is selectively attenuated following D1 receptor blockade. This work establishes a temporal link between anticipatory rises of dopamine and firing patterns in the NAc shell during ICSS and suggests that they may play a similar role with natural rewards and during drug self-administration.
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