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J Neurosci. 2012 Oct 10;32(41):14094-101. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3370-12.2012.

Braking dopamine systems: a new GABA master structure for mesolimbic and nigrostriatal functions.

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Institut des Neurosciences Cellulaires et Intégratives, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Université de Strasbourg, 67084 Strasbourg, France.


A new mesopontine structure exerting a strong influence on dopamine systems has recently been defined: the tail of the ventral tegmental area/rostromedial tegmental nucleus (tVTA/RMTg). This review presents a neuroanatomical, physiological, and behavioral overview of some of the recent and ongoing research on this brain region and its relationship with dopamine systems. The tVTA/RMTg sends dense GABA projections to VTA and substantia nigra neurons. The inhibitory influence of tVTA/RMTg on dopamine neurons is supported by both neuroanatomical and electrophysiology data. The latter studies also reveal the tVTA/RMTg as a substrate for morphine and cannabinoid action on dopamine cells. In primates, the tVTA/RMTg has been implicated in reward prediction error signals, through a basal ganglia-lateral habenula-tVTA/RMTg-dopamine-basal ganglia circuit. In rodents, the tVTA/RMTg has been shown to play a critical role in aversive behaviors, particularly those involving behavioral inhibition, such as freezing and avoidance. These findings highlight the functional importance of the tVTA/RMTg as a major GABA brake for dopamine systems.

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