Dopamine modulates excitability of basolateral amygdala neurons in vitro

J Neurophysiol. 2005 Mar;93(3):1598-610. doi: 10.1152/jn.00843.2004. Epub 2004 Nov 10.


The amygdala plays a role in affective behaviors, which are modulated by the dopamine (DA) innervation of the basolateral amygdala complex (BLA). Although in vivo studies indicate that activation of DA receptors alters BLA neuronal activity, it is unclear whether DA exerts direct effects on BLA neurons or whether it acts via indirect effects on BLA afferents. Using whole cell patch-clamp recordings in rat brain slices, we investigated the site and mechanisms through which DA regulates the excitability of BLA neurons. Dopamine enhanced the excitability of BLA projection neurons in response to somatic current injections via a postsynaptic effect. Dopamine D1 receptor activation increased excitability and evoked firing, whereas D2 receptor activation increased input resistance. Current- and voltage-clamp experiments in projection neurons showed that D1 receptor activation enhanced excitability by modulating a 4-aminopyridine- and alpha-dendrotoxin-sensitive, slowly inactivating K+ current. Furthermore, DA and D1 receptor activation increased evoked firing in fast-spiking BLA interneurons. Consistent with a postsynaptic modulation of interneuron excitability, DA also increased the frequency of spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents recorded in projection neurons without changing release of GABA. These data demonstrate that DA exerts direct effects on BLA projection neurons and indirect actions via modulation of interneurons that may work in concert to enhance the neuronal response to large, suprathreshold inputs, while suppressing weaker inputs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 2-Amino-5-phosphonovalerate / pharmacology
  • 4-Aminopyridine / pharmacology
  • 6-Cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione / pharmacology
  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Amygdala / cytology*
  • Anesthetics, Local / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Benzazepines / pharmacology
  • Dopamine / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine Agonists / pharmacology
  • Dopamine Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Drug Interactions
  • Elapid Venoms / pharmacology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects*
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neurons / classification
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Potassium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Quinpirole / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Staining and Labeling / methods
  • Sulpiride / pharmacology
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Benzazepines
  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Elapid Venoms
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Potassium Channel Blockers
  • Quinpirole
  • Tetrodotoxin
  • 6-Cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione
  • SK&F 81297
  • dendrotoxin
  • 2-Amino-5-phosphonovalerate
  • Sulpiride
  • 4-Aminopyridine
  • Dopamine