Norepinephrine and dopamine transmission in 2 limbic regions differentially respond to acute noxious stimulation

Pain. 2015 Feb;156(2):318-327. doi: 10.1097/01.j.pain.0000460312.79195.ed.


Central dopamine and norepinephrine regulate behavioral and physiological responses during rewarding and aversive stimuli. Here, we investigated and compared norepinephrine and dopamine transmission in 2 limbic structures, the ventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and the nucleus accumbens shell of anesthetized rats, respectively, in response to acute tail pinch, a noxious stimulus. Norepinephrine release in the ventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis responded monophasically, increasing at the time of the tail pinch and remaining elevated for a period after its cessation. In contrast, dopamine transmission in the nucleus accumbens shell displayed a heterogeneous and time-locked response to tail pinch. For most trials, there was a suppression of extracellular dopamine concentration throughout the duration of the stimuli. At the termination of the stimuli, however, extracellular dopamine either recovered back to or spiked above the initial baseline concentration. These signaling patterns were more clearly observed after administration of selective catecholamine autoreceptor and transporter inhibitors. The results suggest that the opposing responses of these catecholamines can provide integration of noxious inputs to influence behavioral outputs appropriate for survival such as escape or fighting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Fluid / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism*
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Physical Stimulation / adverse effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine