The ventral striatopallidal system, a basal ganglia network thought to convert limbic information into behavioral action, includes the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and the ventral pallidum (VP), typically described as a major output of NAc. Here, to investigate how reward-related information is transformed across this circuit, we measure the activity of neurons in NAc and VP when rats receive two highly palatable but differentially preferred rewards, allowing us to track the reward-specific information contained within the neural activity of each region. In VP, we find a prominent preference-related signal that flexibly reports the relative value of reward outcomes across multiple conditions. This reward-specific firing in VP is present in a greater proportion of the population and arises sooner following reward delivery than in NAc. Our findings establish VP as a preeminent value signaler and challenge the existing model of information flow in the ventral basal ganglia.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants 5 T32 NS91018-17 (D. O.), K99 AA025384 (J.M.R.), and R01 DA035943 (P.H.J.), by a NARSAD Young Investigator Award (J.M.R.), and by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE-1746891 (D.O.). The authors thank James Garmon for assistance with equipment design and implementation.