Decision making requires an actor to not only steer behavior toward specific goals but also determine the optimal vigor of performance. Current research and models have largely focused on the former problem of how actions are directed while overlooking the latter problem of how they are energized. Here we designed a self-paced decision-making paradigm, which showed that rats' performance vigor globally fluctuates with the net value of their options, suggesting that they maintain long-term estimates of the value of their current state. Lesions of the dorsomedial striatum (DMS) and, to a lesser degree, in the ventral striatum impaired such state-dependent modulation of vigor, rendering vigor to depend more exclusively on the outcomes of immediately preceding trials. The lesions, however, spared choice biases. Neuronal recordings showed that the DMS is enriched in net value-coding neurons. In sum, the DMS encodes one's net expected return, which drives the general motivation to perform.
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