Hailie Bogenrief

Dopamine Responses to Flavor Preferences Drive Neuroeconomic Decision-Making in Mice

Neuroeconomics is an interdisciplinary field interested in decision-making processes. It is used to analyze brain activity and propose patterns, thresholds, or other neural activity that occurs during decision-making processes. Here, we are interested in monitoring dopamine levels while mice make neuroeconomic decisions in a maze. The behavioral maze contained four corners, each dispensing a different flavored food pellet. Mice ran around the maze and encountered varying tone-cued offers at each “restaurant”, which signaled to the animal how long it would need to wait to receive a reward. Once an animal accepted an offer, the countdown to reward began. During the countdown, the animal had the opportunity to terminate the trial prematurely at any point and progress to another offer. The animals had one hour per day to earn their food, so they were required to utilize economic strategies to optimize their earnings. We proposed that mice would develop flavor preferences and would be willing to take worse offers for their more preferred flavors. Additionally, dopamine responses would reflect flavor preferences and offer delays. The mice made neuroeconomic decisions in the maze, evident by the increase in the average number of laps, earns, and weights over their training period. The mice also developed flavor preferences. Dopamine signaling revealed that the mice had greater dopamine responses to earning their most preferred flavors, and the signaling was not as high with their least preferred flavors. This suggests that dopamine signaling fluctuation reflects neuroeconomic decision-making processes occurring in mice models.