Objective Recent studies have suggested that ninjin'yoeito (NYT), a traditional Japanese Kampo medicine, improves diminished motivation in humans and animals, rendering it a novel therapeutic option for impaired motivation. To better characterize the effect of NYT on motivation, we examined its effect on motivated behaviors in mice. Methods Mouse models of neurodegeneration-related apathy, in which striatal dopamine receptor type 2-expressing medium spiny neurons (D2-MSNs) were progressively damaged by diphtheria toxin expression, were chosen. Results The decrease in effort-based operant responding for rewards (sucrose pellets), indicative of the mouse's motivated behavior, in the affected mice was not suppressed by chronic treatment with NYT suspended in drinking water at 1% (w/v). Mice were then subjected to a sucrose preference test, wherein they freely chose to ingest tap water and a sucrose solution without being required to exert effort. The affected mice showed a decline in preference for sucrose over tap water, relative to nonaffected controls, indicating anhedonia-like traits. In contrast to the diminished operant behavior, the anhedonic behavior in the affected mice was prevented by the NYT administration. Furthermore, NYT did not affect the size of Drd2 mRNA disappearance in the striatum of affected mice, suggesting that the NYT effect was unrelated to DTA-mediated neurodegeneration. Conclusion These results demonstrate that the beneficial effect of NYT on motivation is mediated, at least in part, through the potentiation of hedonic capacity by certain neuromodulatory pathways.
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