Roles for nigrostriatal--not just mesocorticolimbic--dopamine in reward and addiction

Trends Neurosci. 2009 Oct;32(10):517-24. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2009.06.004. Epub 2009 Sep 14.


Forebrain dopamine circuitry has traditionally been studied by two largely independent specialist groups: students of Parkinson's disease who study the nigrostriatal dopamine system that originates in the substantia nigra (SN), and students of motivation and addiction who study the role of the mesolimbic and mesocortical dopamine systems that originate in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). The anatomical evidence for independent nigrostriatal and mesolimbic dopamine systems has, however, long been obsolete. There is now compelling evidence that both nominal "systems" participate in reward function and addiction. Electrical stimulation of both SN and VTA is rewarding, blockade of glutamatergic or cholinergic input to either SN or VTA attenuates the habit-forming effects of intravenous cocaine, and dopamine in both nigrostriatal and mesocorticolimbic terminal fields participates in the defining property of rewarding events: the reinforcement of memory consolidation. Thus, the similarities between nigrostriatal and mesolimbic dopamine systems can be as important as their differences.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage
  • Cocaine / pharmacology
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Dopamine Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Dopamine Agonists / pharmacology
  • Dopamine Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Dopamine Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Long-Term Potentiation / drug effects
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Long-Term Synaptic Depression / drug effects
  • Long-Term Synaptic Depression / physiology
  • Microinjections
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Reward*
  • Self Stimulation / drug effects
  • Self Stimulation / physiology
  • Substantia Nigra / drug effects
  • Substantia Nigra / physiology*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / drug effects
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology*


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine