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Nat Neurosci. 2016 May;19(5):742-748. doi: 10.1038/nn.4285. Epub 2016 Apr 4.

A GABAergic nigrotectal pathway for coordination of drinking behavior.

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Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Department of Cell Biology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Department of Neurobiology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA.


The contribution of basal ganglia outputs to consummatory behavior remains poorly understood. We recorded from the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNR), the major basal ganglia output nucleus, during self-initiated drinking in mice. The firing rates of many lateral SNR neurons were time-locked to individual licks. These neurons send GABAergic projections to the deep layers of the orofacial region of the lateral tectum (superior colliculus, SC). Many tectal neurons were also time-locked to licking, but their activity was usually in antiphase with that of SNR neurons, suggesting inhibitory nigrotectal projections. We used optogenetics to selectively activate the GABAergic nigrotectal afferents in the deep layers of the SC. Photo-stimulation of the nigrotectal projections transiently inhibited the activity of the lick-related tectal neurons, disrupted their licking-related oscillatory pattern and suppressed self-initiated drinking. These results demonstrate that GABAergic nigrotectal projections have a crucial role in coordinating drinking behavior.

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