Dopamine Modulation of Prefrontal Cortex Activity Is Manifold and Operates at Multiple Temporal and Spatial Scales

Sweyta Lohani, Adria K. Martig, Karl Deisseroth, Ilana B. Witten, Bita Moghaddam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Although the function of dopamine in subcortical structures is largely limited to reward and movement, dopamine neurotransmission in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is critical to a multitude of temporally and functionally diverse processes, such as attention, working memory, behavioral flexibility, action planning, and sustained motivational and affective states. How does dopamine influence computation of these temporally complex functions? We find causative links between sustained and burst patterns of phasic dopamine neuron activation and modulation of medial PFC neuronal activity at multiple spatiotemporal scales. These include a multidirectional and weak impact on individual neuron rate activity but a robust influence on coordinated ensemble activity, gamma oscillations, and gamma-theta coupling that persisted for minutes. In addition, PFC network responses to burst pattern of dopamine firing were selectively strengthened in behaviorally active states. This multiplex mode of modulation by dopamine input may enable PFC to compute and generate spatiotemporally diverse and specialized outputs. Lohani et al. find that dopamine modulation of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is spatiotemporally diverse and is dictated by the pattern of dopamine neuron activation and behavioral state, thus allowing dopamine to influence PFC computation of a multitude of temporally diverse functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-114.e6
JournalCell Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


  • attention
  • cognition
  • ensemble activity
  • gamma oscillation
  • ventral tegmental area
  • working memory


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