Role of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in the control of ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Nov 13;33(8):1336-46. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2009.07.010. Epub 2009 Jul 16.


Projections from neurons of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST) to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are crucial to behaviors related to reward and motivation. Over the past few years, we have undertaken a series of studies to understand: 1) how excitatory inputs regulate in vivo excitable properties of BST neurons, and 2) how BST inputs in turn modulate neuronal activity of dopamine neurons in VTA. Using in vivo extracellular recording techniques in anesthetized rats and tract-tracing approaches, we have demonstrated that inputs from the infralimbic cortex and the ventral subiculum exert a strong excitatory influence on BST neurons projecting to the VTA. Thus, the BST is uniquely positioned to receive emotional and learning-associated informations and to integrate these into the reward/motivation circuitry. We will discuss how changes in the activity of BST neurons projecting to the VTA could participate in the development or exacerbation of psychiatric conditions such as drug addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Biophysics
  • Cholera Toxin / metabolism
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agents / pharmacology
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Rats
  • Reward
  • Septal Nuclei / cytology
  • Septal Nuclei / physiology*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / cytology*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agents
  • Cholera Toxin
  • Dopamine