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J Neurophysiol. 2000 Dec;84(6):2799-809.

Dopamine increases excitability of pyramidal neurons in primate prefrontal cortex.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Center for Neural Basis of Cognition, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260, USA.


Dopaminergic modulation of neuronal networks in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) is believed to play an important role in information processing during working memory tasks in both humans and nonhuman primates. To understand the basic cellular mechanisms that underlie these actions of dopamine (DA), we have investigated the influence of DA on the cellular properties of layer 3 pyramidal cells in area 46 of the macaque monkey PFC. Intracellular voltage recordings were obtained with sharp and whole cell patch-clamp electrodes in a PFC brain-slice preparation. All of the recorded neurons in layer 3 (n = 86) exhibited regular spiking firing properties consistent with those of pyramidal neurons. We found that DA had no significant effects on resting membrane potential or input resistance of these cells. However DA, at concentrations as low as 0.5 microM, increased the excitability of PFC cells in response to depolarizing current steps injected at the soma. Enhanced excitability was associated with a hyperpolarizing shift in action potential threshold and a decreased first interspike interval. These effects required activation of D1-like but not D2-like receptors since they were inhibited by the D1 receptor antagonist SCH23390 (3 microM) but not significantly altered by the D2 antagonist sulpiride (2.5 microM). These results show, for the first time, that DA modulates the activity of layer 3 pyramidal neurons in area 46 of monkey dorsolateral PFC in vitro. Furthermore the results suggest that, by means of these effects alone, DA modulation would generally enhance the response of PFC pyramidal neurons to excitatory currents that reach the action potential initiation site.

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