Reinforcement signalling in Drosophila; dopamine does it all after all.
Reinforcement systems are believed to drive synaptic plasticity within neural circuits that store memories. Recent evidence from the fruit fly suggests that anatomically distinct dopaminergic neurons ultimately provide the key instructive signals for both appetitive and aversive learning. This dual role for dopamine overturns the previous model that octopamine signalled reward and dopamine punishment. More importantly, this anatomically segregated double role for dopamine in reward and aversion mirrors that emerging in mammals. Therefore, an antagonistic organization of distinct reinforcing dopaminegic neurons is a conserved feature of brains. It now seems crucial to understand how the dopaminergic neurons are controlled and what the released dopamine does to the underlying circuits to convey opposite valence.