The dorsal raphe nucleus is the major source of serotonin in the brain. It is connected to brain regions related to reward processing, and the neurons show activity related to predicted reward outcome. Clinical observations also suggest that it is important in maintaining alertness and its apparent role in addiction seems to be related to reward processing. Here, we examined whether the neurons in dorsal raphe carry signals about reward outcome and task progress during multitrial schedules. We recorded from 98 single neurons in dorsal raphe of two monkeys. The monkeys perform one, two, or three visual discrimination trials (schedule), obtaining one, two, or three drops of liquid. In the valid cue condition, the length and brightness of a visual cue indicated schedule progress and reward amount, respectively. In the random cue condition, the visual cue was randomly presented with respect to schedule length and reward amount. We found information encoded about (1) schedule onset, (2) reward expectation, (3) reward outcome, and (4) reward amount in the mean firing rates. Information theoretic analysis showed that the temporal variation of the neuronal responses contained additional information related to the progress of the schedule toward the reward rather than only discriminating schedule onset or reward/no reward. When considered in light of all that is known about the raphe in anatomy, physiology, and behavior, the rich encoding about both task progress and predicted reward outcome makes the raphe a strong candidate for providing signals throughout the brain to coordinate persistent goal-seeking behavior.
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