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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017 Mar;42(4):904-913. doi: 10.1038/npp.2016.249. Epub 2016 Nov 4.

Involvement of Infralimbic Prefrontal Cortex but not Lateral Habenula in Dopamine Attenuation After Chronic Mild Stress.

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Departments of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Psychiatry, Center for Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
Medical Scientist Training Program, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


Emerging evidence supports a role for dopamine in major depressive disorder (MDD). We recently reported fewer spontaneously active ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine neurons (ie, reduced dopamine neuron population activity) in the chronic mild stress (CMS) rodent model of MDD. In this study, we examined the role of two brain regions that have been implicated in MDD in humans, the infralimbic prefrontal cortex (ILPFC)-that is, rodent homolog of Brodmann area 25 (BA25), and the lateral habenula (LHb) in the CMS-induced attenuation of dopamine neuron activity. The impact of activating the ILPFC or LHb was evaluated using single-unit extracellular recordings of identified VTA dopamine neurons. The involvement of each region in dopamine neuron attenuation following 5-7 weeks of CMS was then evaluated by selective inactivation. Activation of either ILPFC or LHb in normal rats potently suppressed dopamine neuron population activity, but in unique patterns. ILPFC activation selectively inhibited dopamine neurons in medial VTA, which were most impacted by CMS. Conversely, LHb activation selectively inhibited dopamine neurons in lateral VTA, which were unaffected by CMS. Moreover, only ILPFC inactivation restored dopamine neuron population activity to normal levels following CMS; LHb inactivation had no restorative effect. These data suggest that, in the CMS model of MDD, the ILPFC is the primary driver of diminished dopamine neuron responses. These findings support a neural substrate for ILPFC/BA25 linking affective and motivational circuitry dysfunction in MDD.

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