Marcus Stephenson-Jones, Group Leader of Principal Components of Goal-Directed Behaviour (Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Bahevaiour) accepted our invitation to visit the IEM HAS and he gave a talk entitled ‘Genetically distinct ventral pallidal neurons encode the motivation for approach and avoidance’.
A prominent trait of animals is their ability to predict reward and punishments. These predictions elicit opposing motivational states that drive animals to seek reward or avoid threats. His talk focused on recent work that shows that two populations of neurons in the ventral pallidum (VP) are crucial for appetitive and aversive motivation.
He showed that VP GABAergic neurons encode reward prediction error signals and are essential for reward seeking. In contrast, glutamatergic VP neurons encode punishment prediction errors and are essential for punishment avoidance. In situations of motivational conflict, when there are risks involved in obtaining reward, the glutamatergic VP neurons are essential for constraining reward seeking. Finally, he speculated about the circuits that integrate information from these two VP populations to set the overall motivational state in mice.
After his talk Marcus had two meetings with IEM HAS group leaders and he had a lunch with postdocs and PhD students.