Involvement of A13 dopaminergic neurons in prehensile movements but not reward in the rat
AuthorGarau, Celia; Hayes, Jessica; Chiacchierini, Giulia; Mccutcheon, James Edgar; Apergis-Schoute, John
Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-containing neurons of the dopamine (DA) cell group A13 are well positioned to impact known DA-related functions as their descending projections innervate target regions that regulate vigilance, sensory integration, and motor execution. Despite this connectivity, little is known regarding the functionality of A13-DA circuits. Using TH-specific loss-of-function methodology and techniques to monitor population activity in transgenic rats in vivo, we investigated the contribution of A13-DA neurons in reward and movement-related actions. Our work demonstrates a role for A13-DA neurons in grasping and handling of objects but not reward. A13-DA neurons responded strongly when animals grab and manipulate food items, whereas their inactivation or degeneration prevented animals from successfully doing so—a deficit partially attributed to a reduction in grip strength. By contrast, there was no relation between A13-DA activity and food-seeking behavior when animals were tested on a reward-based task that did not include a reaching/ grasping response. Motivation for food was unaffected, as goal-directed behavior for food items was in general intact following A13 neuronal inactivation/degeneration. An anatomical investigation confirmed that A13-DA neurons project to the superior colliculus (SC) and also demonstrated a novel A13-DA projection to the reticular formation (RF). These results establish a functional role for A13-DA neurons in prehensile actions that are uncoupled from the motivational factors that contribute to the initiation of forelimb movements and help position A13-DA circuits into the functional framework regarding centrally located DA populations and their ability to coordinate movement.