Activation of lateral habenula inputs to the ventral midbrain promotes behavioral avoidance

Nat Neurosci. 2012 Jun 24;15(8):1105-7. doi: 10.1038/nn.3145.


Lateral habenula (LHb) projections to the ventral midbrain, including the rostromedial tegmental nucleus (RMTg), convey negative reward-related information, but the behavioral ramifications of selective activation of this pathway remain unexplored. We found that exposure to aversive stimuli in mice increased LHb excitatory drive onto RMTg neurons. Furthermore, optogenetic activation of this pathway promoted active, passive and conditioned behavioral avoidance. Thus, activity of LHb efferents to the midbrain is aversive but can also serve to negatively reinforce behavioral responding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Habenula / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology*


  • Dopamine