Authors: Ben Engelhard, Joel Finkelstein, Julia Cox, Weston Fleming, Hee Jae Jang, Sharon Ornelas, Sue Ann Koay, Stephan Thiberge, Nathaniel Daw, David Tank, Ilana Witten
Publication: Nature, 2019
There is increased appreciation that dopamine (DA) neurons in the midbrain respond not only to reward and reward-predicting cues but also to other variables such as distance to reward, movements and behavioral choices. Based on these findings, a major open question is how the responses to these diverse variables are organized across the population of DA neurons. In other words, do individual DA neurons multiplex multiple variables, or are subsets of neurons specialized in encoding specific behavioral variables? The reason that this fundamental question has been difficult to resolve is that recordings from large populations of individual DA neurons have not been performed in a behavioral task with sufficient complexity to examine these diverse variables simultaneously.