The role of dopamine (DA) in rewarding motivated actions is well established but its role in learning how to avoid aversive events is still controversial. Here we tested the role of D2-like DA receptors in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and the dorsolateral striatum (DLS) of rats in the learning and performance of conditioned avoidance responses (CAR). Adult male Wistar rats received systemic, intra-NAc or intra-DLS (pre- or post-training) administration of a D2-like receptor agonist (quinpirole) or antagonist ((-)sulpiride) and were given two sessions in the two-way active avoidance task. The main effects observed were: (i) sulpiride and lower (likely pre-synaptic) doses of quinpirole decreased the number of CARs and increased the number of escape failures; (ii) higher doses of quinpirole (likely post-synaptic) increased inter-trial crossings and failures; (iii) pre-training administration of sulpiride decreased the number of CARs in both training and test sessions when infused into the NAc, but this effect was observed only in the test session when it was infused into the DLS; (iv) post-training administration of sulpiride decreased CARs in the test session when infused into the NAc but not DLS. These findings suggest that activation of D2 receptors in the NAc is critical for fast adaptation to responding to unconditioned and conditioned aversive stimuli while activation of these receptors in the DLS is needed for a slower learning of how to respond to the same stimuli based on previous experiences.
- dorsolateral striatal D2 receptors
- avoidance conditioning