Distinct temporal difference error signals in dopamine axons in three regions of the striatum in a decision-making task

Published Date: 
December 21, 2020

Different regions of the striatum regulate different types of behavior. However, how dopamine signals differ across striatal regions and how dopamine regulates different behaviors remain unclear. Here, we compared dopamine axon activity in the ventral, dorsomedial, and dorsolateral striatum, while mice performed a perceptual and value-based decision task. Surprisingly, dopamine axon activity was similar across all three areas. At a glance, the activity multiplexed different variables such as stimulus-associated values, confidence, and reward feedback at different phases of the task. Our modeling demonstrates, however, that these modulations can be inclusively explained by moment-by-moment changes in the expected reward, that is the temporal difference error. A major difference between areas was the overall activity level of reward responses: reward responses in dorsolateral striatum were positively shifted, lacking inhibitory responses to negative prediction errors. The differences in dopamine signals put specific constraints on the properties of behaviors controlled by dopamine in these regions.