, Volume 236, Issue 9, pp 2699–2712 | Cite as

Alterations in effort-related decision-making induced by stimulation of dopamine D1, D2, D3, and corticotropin-releasing factor receptors in nucleus accumbens subregions

  • Courtney A. Bryce
  • Stan B. FlorescoEmail author
Original Investigation



Nucleus accumbens (NAc) dopamine (DA) plays an integral role in overcoming effort costs, as blockade of D1 and D2 receptors reduces the choice of larger, more-costly rewards. Similarly, the stress neuropeptide corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) modulates DA transmission and mediates stress-induced alterations in effort-related choice.


The current study explored how excessive stimulation of different DA receptors within the NAc core and shell alters effort-related decision-making and compared these effects to those induced by CRF stimulation.


Male Long Evans rats were well-trained on an effort-discounting task wherein they choose between a low-effort/low-reward and a high-effort/high-reward lever where the effort requirement increased over blocks (2–20 presses). Dopamine D1 (SKF 81297, 0.2–2 μg), D2/3 (quinpirole, 1–10 μg), or D3 (PD 128,907, 1.5–3 μg) receptor agonists, or CRF (0.5 μg), were infused into the NAc core or shell prior to testing.


Stimulation of D2/3 receptors with quinpirole in the NAc core or shell markedly reduced the choice of high-effort option and increase choice latencies, without altering preference for larger vs smaller rewards. Stimulation of D1 or D3 receptors did not alter choice, although SKF 81297 infusions into the shell reduced response vigor. In comparison, core infusions of CRF flattened the discounting curve, reducing effortful choice when costs were low and increasing it when costs were high.


Excessive stimulation of NAc D2 receptors has detrimental effects on effort-related decision-making. Furthermore, CRF stimulation induces dissociable effects on decision-making compared with those induced the effects of stimulation of different DA receptors.


Decision-making Effort Motivation Nucleus accumbens Dopamine D1 receptors D2 receptors D3 receptors Corticotropin-releasing factor Stress Depression Rats 



The authors thank Jade Adalbert for her outstanding assistance with behavioral testing.

Funding information

This work was supported by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (MOP 133579) to SBF.

Compliance with ethical standards

All testing was done in accordance with the Canadian Council of Animal Care and the Animal Care Committee of the University of British Columbia.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain HealthUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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