Dopamine D2 receptor signaling on iMSNs is required for initiation and vigor of learned actions

Shana M. Augustin, Gabriel C. Loewinger, Timothy J. O’Neal, Alexxai V. Kravitz, David M. Lovinger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Striatal dopamine D2 receptors (D2Rs) are important for motor output. Selective deletion of D2Rs from indirect pathway-projecting medium spiny neurons (iMSNs) impairs locomotor activities in a task-specific manner. However, the role of D2Rs in the initiation of motor actions in reward seeking and taking is not fully understood, and there is little information about how receptors contribute under different task demands and with different outcome types. The iMSN-D2Rs modulate neuronal activity and synaptic transmission, exerting control on circuit functions that may play distinct roles in action learning and performance. Selective deletion of D2Rs on iMSNs resulted in slower action initiation and response rate in an instrumental conditioning task, but only when performance demand was increased. The iMSN-Drd2KO mice were also slower to initiate swimming in a T-maze procedural learning task but were unimpaired in cognitive function and behavioral flexibility. In contrast, in a Pavlovian discrimination learning task, iMSN-Drd2KO mice exhibited normal acquisition and extinction of rewarded responding. The iMSN-Drd2KO mice showed performance deficits at all phases of rotarod skill learning. These findings reveal that dopamine modulation through iMSN-D2Rs influences the ability to self-initiate actions, as well as the willingness and/or vigor with which these responses are performed. However, these receptors seem to have little influence on simple associative learning or on stimulus-driven responding. The loss of normal D2R roles may contribute to disorders in which impaired dopamine signaling leads to hypokinesia or impaired initiation of specific voluntary actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2087-2097
Number of pages11
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology


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