Midbrain dopamine neurons fire in bursts conveying salient information. Bursts are associated with pauses in tonic firing of striatal cholinergic interneurons. Although the reciprocal balance of dopamine and acetylcholine in the striatum is well known, how dopamine neurons control cholinergic neurons has not been elucidated. Here, we show that dopamine neurons make direct fast dopaminergic and glutamatergic connections with cholinergic interneurons, with regional heterogeneity. Dopamine neurons drive a burst-pause firing sequence in cholinergic interneurons in the medial shell of the nucleus accumbens, mixed actions in the accumbens core, and a pause in the dorsal striatum. This heterogeneity is due mainly to regional variation in dopamine-neuron glutamate cotransmission. A single dose of amphetamine attenuates dopamine neuron connections to cholinergic interneurons with dose-dependent regional specificity. Overall, the present data indicate that dopamine neurons control striatal circuit function via discrete, plastic connections with cholinergic interneurons.
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