Whole-brain mapping of direct inputs to midbrain dopamine neurons

Neuron. 2012 Jun 7;74(5):858-73. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.03.017.


Recent studies indicate that dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) convey distinct signals. To explore this difference, we comprehensively identified each area's monosynaptic inputs using the rabies virus. We show that dopamine neurons in both areas integrate inputs from a more diverse collection of areas than previously thought, including autonomic, motor, and somatosensory areas. SNc and VTA dopamine neurons receive contrasting excitatory inputs: the former from the somatosensory/motor cortex and subthalamic nucleus, which may explain their short-latency responses to salient events; and the latter from the lateral hypothalamus, which may explain their involvement in value coding. We demonstrate that neurons in the striatum that project directly to dopamine neurons form patches in both the dorsal and ventral striatum, whereas those projecting to GABAergic neurons are distributed in the matrix compartment. Neuron-type-specific connectivity lays a foundation for studying how dopamine neurons compute outputs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Calbindins
  • Cell Count
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Biological
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Rabies virus / physiology
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein G / metabolism
  • Substantia Nigra / cytology*
  • Transduction, Genetic
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / cytology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Calbindins
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein G
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase