In light of evidence implicating dopamine in the pathophysiology of attention deficit disorder and schizophrenia, diseases involving attentional or sensory processing abnormalities, it was of interest to determine whether and how dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area respond to sensory stimuli. The single-unit responses of ventral tegmental dopamine neurons were recorded in freely-moving cats during the presentation of brief, non- conditioned auditory and visual stimuli. Both auditory and visual stimuli produced neuronal excitation, involving a greater than 5-fold increase in the probability of burst firing followed by a period of burst inhibition. The burst nature of the single-unit response suggests that sensory-induced dopamine release at target sites was disproportion ally large relative to the discharge frequency. While characteristics of the dopaminergic sensory response were similar for auditory and visual stimuli, the response latency was longer for visual stimuli. The results demonstrate that dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area, the site of origin for mesolimbocortical dopamine neurons, are reliably activated by non-conditioned auditory and visual stimuli.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Clinical Neurology
- Developmental Biology
- Ventral tegmental area (VTA)