Dopamine plays a critical role in motor control, addiction, and reward-seeking behaviors, and its release dynamics have traditionally been linked to changes in midbrain dopamine neuron activity. Here, we report that selective endogenous cholinergic activation achieved via in vitro optogenetic stimulation of nucleus accumbens, a terminal field of dopaminergic neurons, elicits real-time dopamine release. This mechanism occurs via direct actions on dopamine terminals, does not require changes in neuron firing within the midbrain, and is dependent on glutamatergic receptor activity. More importantly, we demonstrate that in vivo selective activation of cholinergic interneurons is sufficient to elicit dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens. Therefore, the control of accumbal extracellular dopamine levels by endogenous cholinergic activity results from a complex convergence of neurotransmitter/neuromodulator systems that may ultimately synergize to drive motivated behavior.
Copyright © 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.