Identifying factors that may predispose individuals to developing addiction is a critical component in understanding the basis of the disease. The most common personality traits associated with addiction include heightened novelty seeking and preference, which are associated with increased exploratory behavior in response to novel stimuli and more interaction with novel stimuli compared to familiar stimuli when given a choice, respectively. Genetic studies have linked novelty seeking with the dopamine (DA) neurotransmitter system, as well as genes involved in serotonin (5-hydroxytryptophan, 5HT) signaling. However, the interaction between 5HT and DA in brain areas and neuronal circuits involved in novelty seeking and preference are poorly understood. Recently, we have shown that the interpeduncular nucleus (IPN) is critically involved in novelty seeking and preference. Specifically, activation of IPN GABAergic neurons acts as a brake to reduce exploration of novel stimuli as they become familiar. Our published and preliminary data indicate that the IPN receives DAergic and 5HTergic inputs from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and median raphe (MR), respectively. We hypothesize that these two IPN afferents interact to affect novelty seeking and preference through modulation of familiarity signaling.
Aim 1 will combine optogenetics and behavior in mice to test the hypothesis that activation of a VTA?IPN DAergic circuit prevents familiarity signaling to increase novelty seeking and motivation to explore novel stimuli.
Aim 2 will use a similar approach to determine how 5HT receptor signaling through serotonergic input from the MR to the IPN may influence the behavioral response to novel and familiar stimuli. Finally, Aim 3 will use a biophysical and optogenetic approach to determine how 5HT and DA interact in the IPN and how this controls novelty preference. The results from the proposed experiments should yield significant insight into circuits critical for novelty seeking and preference and elucidate new mechanisms underlying behavioral traits associated with addiction.
The goal of the proposed project is to elucidate and characterize circuits in the brain that may control novelty seeking and preference by modulating the behavioral response to familiarity. It is anticipated that this work will yield new insights into behavioral traits critical for addiction.