Optogenetic insights into striatal function and behavior

Behav Brain Res. 2013 Oct 15;255:44-54. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2013.04.018. Epub 2013 Apr 28.


Recent breakthroughs in optogenetic technologies to alter neuronal firing and function with light, combined with cell type-specific transgenic animal lines, has led to important insights into the function of distinct neuronal cell subtypes and afferent connections in the heterogeneously complex striatum. A vital part of the basal ganglia, the striatum is heavily implicated in both motor control and motivation-based behavior; as well as in neurological disorders and psychiatric diseases including Parkinson's Disease, Huntington's Disease, drug addiction, depression, and schizophrenia. Researchers are able to manipulate firing and cell signaling with temporal precision using optogenetics in the two striatal medium spiny neuron (MSN) subpopulations, the striatal interneurons, and striatal afferents. These studies confirmed the classical hypothesis of movement control and reward seeking behavior through direct versus indirect pathway MSNs; illuminated a selective role for TANs in cocaine reward; dissected the roles of glutamatergic and dopaminergic inputs to striatum in reward; and highlighted a role for striatal signaling molecules including an adrenergic G-protein coupled receptor in reward and the rho-GTPase Rac1 in cocaine reward and cocaine induced structural plasticity. This review focuses on how the evolving optogenetic toolbox provides insight into the distinct behavioral roles of striatal cell subpopulations and striatal afferents, which has clinically relevant implications into neurological disorders and psychiatric disease.

Keywords: Dstr; FS; LTS; MSN; Medium spiny neurons; Motor Control; NAc; Optogenetics; Reward; SN; Striatum; TAN; Tonically active cholinergic interneurons; VTA; dorsal striatum; fast spiking interneuron; low threshold spiking interneuron; medium spiny neuron; nucleus accumbens; substantia nigra; tonically active cholinergic interneuron; ventral tegmental area.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Corpus Striatum / cytology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Optogenetics*
  • Reward*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology