The Paraventricular Thalamic Nucleus and Its Projections in Regulating Reward and Context Associations

Dillon S. McDevitt, Quinn W. Wade, Greer E. McKendrick, Jacob Nelsen, Mariya Starostina, Nam Tran, Julie A. Blendy, Nicholas M. Graziane

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The paraventricular thalamic nucleus (PVT) is a brain region that mediates aversive and reward-related behaviors as shown in animals exposed to fear conditioning, natural rewards, or drugs of abuse. However, it is unknown whether manipulations of the PVT, in the absence of external factors or stimuli (e.g., fear, natural rewards, or drugs of abuse), are sufficient to drive reward-related behaviors. Additionally, it is unknown whether drugs of abuse administered directly into the PVT are sufficient to drive reward-related behaviors. Here, using behavioral as well as pathway and cell-type specific approaches, we manipulate PVT activity as well as the PVT-to-nucleus accumbens shell (NAcSh) neu-rocircuit to explore reward phenotypes. First, we show that bath perfusion of morphine (10 µM) caused hyperpolarization of the resting membrane potential, increased rheobase, and decreased intrinsic membrane excitability in PVT neurons that project to the NAcSh. Additionally, we found that direct injections of morphine (50 ng) in the PVT of mice were sufficient to generate conditioned place preference (CPP) for the morphine-paired chamber. Mimicking the inhibitory effect of morphine, we employed a chemogenetic approach to inhibit PVT neurons that projected to the NAcSh and found that pairing the inhibition of these PVT neurons with a specific context evoked the acquisition of CPP. Lastly, using brain slice electrophysiology, we found that bath-perfused morphine (10 µM) significantly reduced PVT excitatory synaptic transmission on both dopamine D1 and D2 receptor– expressing medium spiny neurons in the NAcSh, but that inhibiting PVT afferents in the NAcSh was not sufficient to evoke CPP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience

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