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Endocannabinoid-Dependent Modulation of Phasic Dopamine Signaling Encodes External and Internal Reward-Predictive Cues

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      Abstract

      The mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system plays an integral role in incentive motivation and reward seeking and a growing body of evidence identifies signal transduction at cannabinoid receptors as a critical modulator of this system. Indeed, administration of exogenous cannabinoids results in burst firing of DA neurons of the ventral tegmental area and increases extracellular DA in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). Implementation of fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) confirms the ability of cannabinoids to augment DA within the NAcc on a subsecond timescale. The use of FSCV along with newly developed highly selective pharmacological compounds advances our understanding of how cannabinoids influence DA transmission and highlights a role for endocannabinoid-modulated subsecond DAergic activation in the incentive motivational properties of not only external, but also internal reward-predictive cues. For example, our laboratory has recently demonstrated that in mice responding under a fixed-interval (FI) schedule for food reinforcement, fluctuations in NAcc DA signal the principal cue predictive of reinforcer availability – time. That is, as the interval progresses, NAcc DA levels decline leading to accelerated food seeking and the resulting characteristic FI scallop pattern of responding. Importantly, administration of WIN 55,212-2, a synthetic cannabinoid agonist, or JZL184, an indirect cannabinoid agonist, increases DA levels during the interval and disrupts this pattern of responding. Along with a wealth of other reports, these results illustrate the role of cannabinoid receptor activation in the regulation of DA transmission and the control of temporally guided reward seeking. The current review will explore the striatal beat frequency model of interval timing as it pertains to cannabinoid signaling and propose a neurocircuitry through which this system modulates interoceptive time cues.

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      Predictive reward signal of dopamine neurons.

       W. Schultz (1998)
      The effects of lesions, receptor blocking, electrical self-stimulation, and drugs of abuse suggest that midbrain dopamine systems are involved in processing reward information and learning approach behavior. Most dopamine neurons show phasic activations after primary liquid and food rewards and conditioned, reward-predicting visual and auditory stimuli. They show biphasic, activation-depression responses after stimuli that resemble reward-predicting stimuli or are novel or particularly salient. However, only few phasic activations follow aversive stimuli. Thus dopamine neurons label environmental stimuli with appetitive value, predict and detect rewards and signal alerting and motivating events. By failing to discriminate between different rewards, dopamine neurons appear to emit an alerting message about the surprising presence or absence of rewards. All responses to rewards and reward-predicting stimuli depend on event predictability. Dopamine neurons are activated by rewarding events that are better than predicted, remain uninfluenced by events that are as good as predicted, and are depressed by events that are worse than predicted. By signaling rewards according to a prediction error, dopamine responses have the formal characteristics of a teaching signal postulated by reinforcement learning theories. Dopamine responses transfer during learning from primary rewards to reward-predicting stimuli. This may contribute to neuronal mechanisms underlying the retrograde action of rewards, one of the main puzzles in reinforcement learning. The impulse response releases a short pulse of dopamine onto many dendrites, thus broadcasting a rather global reinforcement signal to postsynaptic neurons. This signal may improve approach behavior by providing advance reward information before the behavior occurs, and may contribute to learning by modifying synaptic transmission. The dopamine reward signal is supplemented by activity in neurons in striatum, frontal cortex, and amygdala, which process specific reward information but do not emit a global reward prediction error signal. A cooperation between the different reward signals may assure the use of specific rewards for selectively reinforcing behaviors. Among the other projection systems, noradrenaline neurons predominantly serve attentional mechanisms and nucleus basalis neurons code rewards heterogeneously. Cerebellar climbing fibers signal errors in motor performance or errors in the prediction of aversive events to cerebellar Purkinje cells. Most deficits following dopamine-depleting lesions are not easily explained by a defective reward signal but may reflect the absence of a general enabling function of tonic levels of extracellular dopamine. Thus dopamine systems may have two functions, the phasic transmission of reward information and the tonic enabling of postsynaptic neurons.
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        The functional anatomy of basal ganglia disorders.

        Basal ganglia disorders are a heterogeneous group of clinical syndromes with a common anatomic locus within the basal ganglia. To account for the variety of clinical manifestations associated with insults to various parts of the basal ganglia we propose a model in which specific types of basal ganglia disorders are associated with changes in the function of subpopulations of striatal projection neurons. This model is based on a synthesis of experimental animal and post-mortem human anatomic and neurochemical data. Hyperkinetic disorders, which are characterized by an excess of abnormal movements, are postulated to result from the selective impairment of striatal neurons projecting to the lateral globus pallidus. Hypokinetic disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, are hypothesized to result from a complex series of changes in the activity of striatal projection neuron subpopulations resulting in an increase in basal ganglia output. This model suggests that the activity of subpopulations of striatal projection neurons is differentially regulated by striatal afferents and that different striatal projection neuron subpopulations may mediate different aspects of motor control.
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          Molecular characterization of a peripheral receptor for cannabinoids.

          The major active ingredient of marijuana, delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta 9-THC), has been used as a psychoactive agent for thousands of years. Marijuana, and delta 9-THC, also exert a wide range of other effects including analgesia, anti-inflammation, immunosuppression, anticonvulsion, alleviation of intraocular pressure in glaucoma, and attenuation of vomiting. The clinical application of cannabinoids has, however, been limited by their psychoactive effects, and this has led to interest in the biochemical bases of their action. Progress stemmed initially from the synthesis of potent derivatives of delta 9-THC, and more recently from the cloning of a gene encoding a G-protein-coupled receptor for cannabinoids. This receptor is expressed in the brain but not in the periphery, except for a low level in testes. It has been proposed that the nonpsychoactive effects of cannabinoids are either mediated centrally or through direct interaction with other, non-receptor proteins. Here we report the cloning of a receptor for cannabinoids that is not expressed in the brain but rather in macrophages in the marginal zone of spleen.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            1Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine , Baltimore, MD, USA
            2Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine , Baltimore, MD, USA
            Author notes

            Edited by: Steven R. Laviolette, University of Western Ontario, Canada

            Reviewed by: Sulev Kõks, University of Tartu, Estonia; Steven R. Laviolette, University of Western Ontario, Canada

            *Correspondence: Joseph F. Cheer, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 20 Penn Street, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA e-mail: jchee001@ 123456umaryland.edu

            This article was submitted to Neuropharmacology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

            Contributors
            URI : http://frontiersin.org/people/u/132333
            URI : http://frontiersin.org/people/u/4000
            Journal
            Front Psychiatry
            Front Psychiatry
            Front. Psychiatry
            Frontiers in Psychiatry
            Frontiers Media S.A.
            1664-0640
            21 July 2014
            01 September 2014
            2014
            : 5
            4150350 10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00118
            Copyright © 2014 Wenzel and Cheer.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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            Figures: 2, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 199, Pages: 13, Words: 11910
            Categories
            Psychiatry
            Review Article

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