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J Neurosci. 2007 Jan 17;27(3):692-9.

Functional heterogeneity of retinal dopaminergic neurons underlying their multiple roles in vision.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37235, USA.


Dopaminergic neurons play key roles in the CNS, mediating basic mechanisms of vision, movement, motivation, and mood. The most accessible dopaminergic neurons of the vertebrate CNS are the dopaminergic amacrine cells of the retina. Here, we have characterized the intrinsic neural activity, synaptic input, and light responses of retinal dopaminergic neurons in situ, using targeted electrophysiological recordings of fluorescent neurons in TH::RFP (tyrosine hydroxylase gene promoter::red fluorescent protein) transgenic mice. Dopaminergic amacrine cells exhibit two classes of intrinsic bursting in the dark, shaped by inhibitory synaptic inputs, and two classes of light responses, ON-transient and ON-sustained, as well as light-independent activity, tuned to mediate specific dopaminergic functions in vision. The functional heterogeneity revealed in dopaminergic amacrine cells provides a cellular basis for the multiple roles of dopaminergic amacrine neurons in vision and is likely a general property of dopaminergic neurons throughout the CNS.

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