The heterogeneity of ventral tegmental area neurons: Projection functions in a mood-related context

Neuroscience. 2014 Dec 12;282:101-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.06.006. Epub 2014 Jun 12.


The ventral tegmental area (VTA) in the brain's reward circuitry is composed of a heterogeneous population of dopamine, GABA, and glutamate neurons that play important roles in mediating mood-related functions including depression. These neurons project to different brain regions, including the nucleus accumbens (NAc), the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and the amygdala. The functional understanding of these projection pathways has been improved since the extensive use of advanced techniques such as viral-mediated gene transfer, cell-type-specific neurophysiology and circuit-probing optogenetics. In this article, we will discuss the recent progress in understanding these VTA projection-specific functions, focusing on mood-related disorders.

Keywords: animal models; depression; mood disorders; neural circuits; projection functions; ventral tegmental area.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders / metabolism*
  • Neural Pathways*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reward*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / metabolism
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology*