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Neuron. 2012 Mar 22;73(6):1184-94. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.02.016. Epub 2012 Mar 21.

Activation of VTA GABA neurons disrupts reward consumption.

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Departments of Psychiatry & Cellular and Molecular Physiology, UNC Neuroscience Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


The activity of ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) neurons promotes behavioral responses to rewards and environmental stimuli that predict them. VTA GABA inputs synapse directly onto DA neurons and may regulate DA neuronal activity to alter reward-related behaviors; however, the functional consequences of selective activation of VTA GABA neurons remains unknown. Here, we show that in vivo optogenetic activation of VTA GABA neurons disrupts reward consummatory behavior but not conditioned anticipatory behavior in response to reward-predictive cues. In addition, direct activation of VTA GABA projections to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) resulted in detectable GABA release but did not alter reward consumption. Furthermore, optogenetic stimulation of VTA GABA neurons directly suppressed the activity and excitability of neighboring DA neurons as well as the release of DA in the NAc, suggesting that the dynamic interplay between VTA DA and GABA neurons can control the initiation and termination of reward-related behaviors.

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