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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2006 Feb;31(2):384-95.

Hypocretin/orexin selectively increases dopamine efflux within the prefrontal cortex: involvement of the ventral tegmental area.

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Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 53706, USA.


Hypocretins (HCRTs) modulate a variety of behavioral and physiological processes, in part via interactions with multiple ascending modulatory systems. Further, HCRT efferents from the lateral hypothalamus innervate midbrain dopamine (DA) nuclei, and DA cell bodies express HCRT receptors. Combined, these observations suggest that HCRT may influence behavioral state and/or state-dependent processes via modulation of DA neurotransmission. The current studies used in vivo microdialysis in the unanesthetized rat to first characterize the effect of intracerebroventricular infusion of HCRT-1 (0.07, 0.7 nmol) on extracellular levels of DA within the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and nucleus accumbens (Acc). Electroencephalographic/electromyographic measures of sleep-wake state were collected along with select behavioral measures (eg locomotor activity, grooming). HCRT-1 dose-dependently increased PFC dialysate DA levels, and these increases were closely correlated with increases in time spent awake. In contrast, Acc DA levels were unaffected. Additional studies examined whether HCRT-1 acts directly within the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to selectively increase PFC DA efflux and modulate behavioral state. Unilateral infusion of HCRT-1 (0.1, 1.0 nmol) within the VTA increased PFC, but not Acc, DA levels. Importantly, intra-VTA infusion of HCRT-1 increased the time spent awake and grooming. Moreover, HCRT-induced increases in both time spent awake and time spent grooming were significantly correlated with post-infusion PFC DA levels. The current observations predict a prominent modulatory influence of HCRT on PFC-dependent cognitive and affective processes that results, in part, from actions within the VTA. Additionally, these observations suggest that the activation of VTA DA neurons contributes to the behavioral state-modulatory actions of HCRT.

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