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Neuroscience. 1999;92(1):245-54.

Stimulation of the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus in the rat produces burst firing in A9 dopaminergic neurons.

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Department of Psychology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Swansea, UK.


Stimulation of the medial prefrontal cortex in the rat produces events in midbrain dopaminergic neurons which resemble natural bursts, and which are closely time-locked to the stimulation, albeit with a very long latency. As a consequence, we have previously argued that such bursts are polysynaptically generated via more proximal excitatory amino acidergic afferents, arising, for example, from the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus. In the present study, single-pulse electrical stimulation applied to this nucleus (and other sites in the rostral pons) was found to elicit responses in the majority of substantia nigra (A9) dopaminergic neurons. Responses usually consisted of long-latency, long-duration excitations or inhibition-excitations. Thirty-seven percent of responses (currents combined) elicited by stimulation of the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus contained time-locked bursts, the bursts being embedded in the long-duration excitatory phases of excitation and inhibition-excitation responses. Stimulation sites located within 0.5 mm of the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus were also effective at eliciting time-locked bursts (although less so than sites located in the nucleus itself), whereas more distal sites were virtually ineffective. For responses containing time-locked bursts, a higher percentage of stimulations produced a burst when the response was elicited from within the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus than when it was elicited from outside: the bursts themselves having a very long latency (median of 96.2 ms; shorter than that of medial prefrontal cortex-induced bursts). Finally, although there was no difference in the distribution within the substantia nigra pars compacta of cells which exhibited time-locked bursting and those which did not, stimulation-induced bursts were elicited more frequently in dopaminergic neurons which were classified as "bursting" on the basis of their basal activity. The pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus appears to be a critical locus in the rostral pons for the elicitation of time-locked bursts in A9 dopaminergic neurons. Since time-locked bursts were more often elicited from cells which exhibited bursting under basal conditions, this suggests that rostral pontine sites, in particular the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus, may play a role in the natural burst activity of dopaminergic neurons. Given that bursts in dopaminergic neurons are generated in response to primary and secondary reinforcers, the projection from the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus could be one means by which motivationally relevant information (arising, for example, from the medial prefrontal cortex) reaches these cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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