Anatomical Substrates for Glutamate-Dopamine Interactions: Evidence for Specificity of Connections and Extrasynaptic Actions

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Nov;1003:36-52. doi: 10.1196/annals.1300.066.


For normal regulation of motor, affective, and cognitive functions, dopamine provides an essential modulation of glutamate transmission within multiple brain regions. This paper will review three principal anatomical substrates for such interactions. First, dopamine modulates the activity of glutamate neurons within the cerebral cortex. Evidence will be reviewed for dopamine regulation of pyramidal neurons in the prefrontal cortex via synaptic and extrasynaptic mechanisms and through indirect effects mediated by GABA cells. Second, glutamate neurons innervate dopamine cells within the ventral tegmental area. Evidence will be described for selective glutamate input from the prefrontal cortex or the brain stem tegmentum to different populations of dopamine cells. The third level of interaction occurs within target regions via convergent synaptic or extrasynaptic regulation of common neurons. Such convergence will be reviewed for the basal ganglia, prefrontal cortex, and amygdala. Together, these substrates for glutamate-dopamine interactions provide several mechanisms for normal regulation of brain function. Sites of modulatory interaction between dopamine and glutamate also suggest circuit alterations that might contribute to the pathophysiology of mental health disorders and provide potential sites for therapeutic intervention in these conditions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / cytology
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Animals
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mesencephalon / cytology
  • Mesencephalon / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Dopamine