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J Neurosci. 2001 Apr 15;21(8):2820-32.

Regulation of limbic information outflow by the subthalamic nucleus: excitatory amino acid projections to the ventral pallidum.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, and the Neuroscience Program, Loyola University Chicago, School of Medicine, Maywood, Illinois 60153, USA. mturner@luc.edu


The subthalamic nucleus (STN), a component of the basal ganglia motor system, sends an excitatory amino acid (EAA)-containing projection to the ventral pallidum (VP), a major limbic system output region. The VP contains both NMDA and AMPA subtypes of EAA receptors. To characterize the physiology of the subthalamic pathway to the VP, and to determine the influence of EAA receptor subtypes, in vivo intracellular recordings, and in vivo extracellular recordings combined with microiontophoresis, were made from VP neurons in anesthetized rats. Of the intracellularly recorded neurons, 86% responded to STN stimulation, and these displayed EPSPs with an onset of 8.7 msec, consistent with a monosynaptic input. The EPSPs evoked in spontaneously firing neurons were nearly twice the amplitude of those in nonfiring cells (13.1 vs 6.8 mV, respectively). As neurons were depolarized by current injection, the latency for spiking decreased from 24.2 to 14.2 msec, although EPSP latency was unaffected. Eighty-seven percent of the extracellularly recorded VP neurons responded to STN stimulation with a rapid and robust enhancement of spiking; the response onset, like the EPSP onset, equaled 8.7 msec. Firing rate was enhanced by NMDA in 94% of the STN-excited cells, and AMPA increased firing in 94% as well. The NMDA-selective antagonist AP-5 attenuated 67% of the STN-evoked excitatory responses, and the AMPA-selective antagonist CNQX attenuated 52%. Both antagonists attenuated 33% of responses, and 78% were attenuated by at least one. This evidence suggests that a great majority of VP neurons are directly influenced by STN activation and that both NMDA and non-NMDA receptors are involved. Moreover, the VP response to STN stimulation appears to be strongly dependent on the depolarization state of the neuron.

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