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Neuroscience. 2014 Dec 12;282:243-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.10.017. Epub 2014 Oct 20.

The ventral tegmentum and dopamine: A new wave of diversity.

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Institut des Neurosciences Cellulaires et Intégratives, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Strasbourg, France; Université de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France. Electronic address:


Projection systems arising from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the substantia nigra (SN) have a critical role in a broad range of functions, as well as in the etiology, symptoms and treatment of neurological and psychiatric diseases. Mostly studied for its dopamine neurons, the ventral tegmentum is in fact heterogeneous at cellular and functional levels. This special issue of Neuroscience gathered some experts in the field to review the connectivity of the ventral mesencephalic dopaminergic complex, its cellular heterogeneity with attention given to glutamate neurons, the D2 autoreceptor and the cholinergic controls of dopamine activity, the influence of neurotrophins, the controls of bursting activity and the heterogeneity of neuronal activity across traits and states, the pedunculopontine tegmental and the sensory controls of dopamine activity, the sex-dependent diversity, the links between circadian and dopamine systems, the functional antero-posterior heterogeneity of the VTA and the role of its GABA tail (tVTA/rostromedial tegmental nucleus (RMTg)), the functional heterogeneity of the VTA outputs, the place of dopamine in cortico-basal ganglia circuitry, the different roles of the D1 and D2 striatal pathways and the role of dopamine in associative learning and memory. Recent progress also highlights the need for molecular markers of functional subpopulations within the ventral tegmentum, for deeper developmental knowledge of this region, and for a single cell level of connectomic. It also raises the question of inter-individual, sex, strain and species heterogeneity, and conversely the question of data generalization in a context of human pathology models, which warrant comparative studies and translational effort.


dopamine; heterogeneity; substantia nigra; ventral tegmental area

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