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Brain Res Bull. 1992 May;28(5):743-9.

Action of habenular efferents on ventral tegmental area neurons studied in vitro.

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Department of Physiology, Nagasaki University School of Medicine, Japan.


Action of habenular efferents on neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) was studied with a slice preparation that preserved the habenula (Hb) and the VTA together with the interconnecting fiber bundle, the fasciculus retroflexus (FR). In the VTA, two types of neurons, presumably corresponding to the dopaminergic and nondopaminergic neurons, were discerned on the basis of the electrophysiological properties. Of 52 VTA neurons sampled, 42 [with the mean resting membrane potential of 56 +/- 7 mV (mean +/- SD)] responded with excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) to FR stimulation. The EPSPs were monosynaptic in nature and rather weak in effect in the sense that they rarely triggered spikes. No significant differences in latency, duration, and time to peak were noted between the EPSPs generated in different types of neurons. FR stimulation evoked inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) in only six neurons, their resting membrane potential being 51 +/- 4 mV. The IPSPs frequently showed a fluctuation in latency. FR stimulation also produced antidromic responses in a few VTA neurons, but their long latencies precluded the possibility that the VTA-Hb projections contributed to the FR-evoked orthodromic responses in the VTA. EPSPs evoked by FR stimulation could be suppressed by kynurenic acid (1 mM). The findings indicate that the efferents of the Hb primarily have an excitatory effect on VTA neurons of any type and that the excitation may be mediated by amino acid receptors.

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