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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 27;6(1):e16528. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016528.

Conjunctive processing of locomotor signals by the ventral tegmental area neuronal population.

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Key Laboratory of MOE and STCSM, Shanghai Institute of Brain Functional Genomics, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China.


The ventral tegmental area (VTA) plays an essential role in reward and motivation. How the dopamine (DA) and non-DA neurons in the VTA engage in motivation-based locomotor behaviors is not well understood. We recorded activity of putative DA and non-DA neurons simultaneously in the VTA of awake mice engaged in motivated voluntary movements such as wheel running. Our results revealed that VTA non-DA neurons exhibited significant rhythmic activity that was correlated with the animal's running rhythms. Activity of putative DA neurons also correlated with the movement behavior, but to a lesser degree. More importantly, putative DA neurons exhibited significant burst activation at both onset and offset of voluntary movements. These findings suggest that VTA DA and non-DA neurons conjunctively process locomotor-related motivational signals that are associated with movement initiation, maintenance and termination.

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