The laterodorsal tegmentum contributes to behavioral sensitization to amphetamine

Neuroscience. 2007 Apr 25;146(1):41-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.01.027. Epub 2007 Feb 22.


A critical event in the development of behavioral sensitization is a transient increase in excitatory drive to dopamine neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA). This is likely to be due, in part, to the ability of drugs of abuse to produce long-term potentiation, expressed as increased AMPA receptor transmission, at excitatory synapses onto VTA dopamine neurons. We investigated the role of the laterodorsal tegmentum (LDT) in behavioral sensitization because LDT neurons provide an important source of excitatory drive to VTA dopamine neurons, through mixed glutamate and cholinergic inputs. To test the role of the LDT in amphetamine sensitization, ibotenic acid or sham lesions of the LDT were performed 1 week before the first of six daily amphetamine injections. When challenged with amphetamine 13 days after the last injection, sham rats expressed sensitization of stereotypy and post-stereotypy locomotor hyperactivity, whereas the latter was attenuated by ibotenic acid lesions of the LDT. To determine whether plasticity occurs in the LDT during amphetamine sensitization, we used a previously developed microdialysis assay in which increased ability of AMPA to activate a pathway serves as a marker for long-term potentiation. Two days after discontinuing repeated saline or amphetamine injections, the responsiveness of LDT-VTA neurons to AMPA was determined by microinjecting AMPA (0.4 nmol) into the LDT and measuring glutamate efflux in the ipsilateral VTA. Glutamate efflux was transiently increased in both groups but a delayed group difference was apparent with relatively higher glutamate efflux in amphetamine rats 30-60 min after AMPA injection. In parallel experiments, dopamine efflux in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) following intra-LDT AMPA declined in saline rats but remained relatively stable in amphetamine rats. Both results suggest relatively greater excitability of the LDT-VTA-NAc pathway after repeated amphetamine treatment. Our results provide the first evidence that neuronal plasticity in the LDT contributes to behavioral sensitization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamine / pharmacology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology*
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists / toxicity
  • Ibotenic Acid / toxicity
  • Male
  • Microdialysis / methods
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • NADP / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stereotyped Behavior / drug effects
  • Time Factors
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / cytology
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / injuries
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology*


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists
  • Ibotenic Acid
  • NADP
  • Amphetamine
  • Dopamine