Dorsal and ventral distribution of excitable and synaptic properties of neurons of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis

J Neurophysiol. 2003 Jul;90(1):405-14. doi: 10.1152/jn.00228.2003. Epub 2003 Mar 20.


The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) is a structure uniquely positioned to integrate stress information and regulate both stress and reward systems. Consistent with this arrangement, evidence suggests that the BNST, and in particular the noradrenergic input to this structure, is a key component of affective responses to drugs of abuse. We have utilized an in vitro slice preparation from adult mice to determine synaptic and membrane properties of these cells, focusing on the dorsal and ventral subdivisions of the anterolateral BNST (dBNST and vBNST) because of the differential noradrenergic input to these two regions. We find that while resting membrane potential and input resistance are comparable between these subdivisions, excitable properties, including a low-threshold spike (LTS) likely mediated by T-type calcium channels and an Ih-dependent potential, are differentially distributed. Inhibitory and excitatory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs and EPSPs, respectively) are readily evoked in both dBNST and vBNST. The fast IPSP is predominantly GABAA-receptor mediated and is partially blocked by the AMPA/kainate-receptor antagonist CNQX. In the presence of the GABAA-receptor antagonist picrotoxin, cells in dBNST but not vBNST are more depolarized and have a higher input resistance, suggesting tonic GABAergic inhibition of these cells. The EPSPs elicited in BNST are monosynaptic, exhibit paired pulse facilitation, and contain both an AMPA- and an N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated component. These data support the hypothesis that neurons of the dorsal and ventral BNST differentially integrate synaptic input, which is likely of behavioral significance. The data also suggest mechanisms by which information may flow through stress and reward circuits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials*
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Potassium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Potassium Channels / physiology
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology
  • Receptors, AMPA / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, AMPA / physiology*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology*
  • Septal Nuclei / drug effects
  • Septal Nuclei / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Potassium Channel Blockers
  • Potassium Channels
  • Pyrimidines
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • ICI D2788
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid