Glutamatergic signaling plays an important role in learning and memory. Using Pavlovian conditioned approach procedures, the mechanisms that drive stimulus-reward learning and memory have been investigated. However, there are instances where reward-predictive stimuli can function beyond being solely predictive and can be attributed with “motivational value” or incentive salience. Using a Pavlovian conditioned approach procedure consisting of two different but equally predictive stimuli (lever vs. tone) we investigated the role NMDA receptor function has in the attribution of incentive salience. The results revealed that the administration of MK-801, an NMDA receptor antagonist, during acquisition of Pavlovian conditioned approach promoted goal-tracking to a lever stimulus, while control animals learned to sign-track. Moreover, within the same animals, the use of a tone stimulus elicited goal-tracking responses that were unaffected by MK-801 pretreatments. Furthermore, a lever CS that elicited sign-tracking served as a more robust conditioned reinforcer than a tone CS that elicited goal-tracking or a lever CS that elicited goal-tracking via MK-801 pretreatments. Collectively, these results demonstrate that NMDA receptor antagonism can alter the stimulus-reward relationship learned and prevent the attribution of incentive salience, rather than impede general learning.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Behavioural Brain Research, v. 338, p. 40-46.

© 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

This manuscript version is made available under the CC‐BY‐NC‐ND 4.0 license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.

The document available for download is the author's post-peer-review final draft of the article.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

Funding was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), DA033373.