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Neuroscience. 1997 Mar;77(1):175-86.

Ventral pallidum self-stimulation induces stimulus dependent increase in c-fos expression in reward-related brain regions.

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Department of Basic Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Crete, Heraklion, Greece.


Neuronal expression of Fos, the protein product of the immediate early gene c-fos has been used as a high resolution metabolic marker for mapping polysynaptic pathways in the brain. We used Fos immunohistochemistry to reveal neuronal activation following self-stimulation of the ventral pallidum. Four groups of rats were allowed to self-stimulate for 30 min with 0.4 s trains of cathodal rectangular pulses of constant intensity (0.4 mA) and duration (0.1 ms). Each group was assigned a different pulse frequency, (3, 17, 24 and 50 pulses/stimulation train). Which was preselected from within each animal's rate-frequency function. The subjects that were assigned three pulses failed to self-stimulate and were considered as controls. The subjects that were assigned 17 pulses self-stimulated at half-maximal rate, whereas those that were assigned 24 and 50 pulses self-stimulated at maximal rates. The animals were sacrificed 90 min after the self-stimulation session and their brains were processed for Fos-like immunoreactivity. Fos-like immunoreactivity was found to increase as a function of pulse frequency in several brain regions known to be involved in drug and/or brain stimulation reward (medial prefrontal cortex, lateral septum, nucleus accumbens; lateral hypothalamus and ventral tegmental area), whereas it was not affected in structures devoid of such involvement (substantia nigra reticulata and dorsolateral striatum). The level of Fos expression induced by trains of 50 pulses was considerably higher than that produced by 24 pulses although both frequencies supported the same (maximal) self-stimulation rate. This finding indicates that Fos expression correlated with reward magnitude (known to increase between these frequencies), not with bar-pressing rate, thus suggesting the presence of a reward-specific effect. The finding of a frequency-dependent Fos expression in a behavioural paradigm can be considered analogous to a pharmacological dose-response curve and, as such, our results may open new avenues for the use of Fos immunohistochemistry in quantitative neurobehavioural studies.

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