Electrophysiological and pharmacological characterization of identified nigrostriatal and mesoaccumbens dopamine neurons in the rat

Synapse. 1988;2(5):474-85. doi: 10.1002/syn.890020503.


Extracellular single-unit recording techniques were used to compare the basal activity and pharmacological responsiveness of identified nigrostriatal and mesoaccumbens dopamine (DA)-containing neurons. The projection area of each DA cell was determined by antidromic activation techniques. The forebrain stimulation used for the cell identification procedure did not alter the pharmacological responsiveness of DA neurons; the inhibitory effect of apomorphine (and d-amphetamine) was identical when stimulation was applied either prior to or following drug administration. Analysis of the spike discharge pattern revealed that a higher proportion of mesoaccumbens DA cells exhibited burst-firing activity. Although the firing pattern of the two populations of burst-firing DA cells was similar in many regards, mesoaccumbens DA cells exhibited a longer postburst inhibition than did nigrostriatal DA cells. Each of the DA agonists, apomorphine, pergolide, B-HT 920, and d-amphetamine, inhibited nigrostriatal and mesoaccumbens DA neuronal activity in a similar fashion. However, there was a marked population difference in the recovery of cell firing in the 10 minutes following apomorphine-induced inhibition; the recovery of mesoaccumbens spike discharges was considerably slower. Although this population difference was apparent to some extent following administration of pergolide or B-HT 920 (but not d-amphetamine), it was considerably less marked. The present findings are discussed with respect to the known regulatory control of midbrain DA neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Amphetamines / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Apomorphine / pharmacology
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Male
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Septal Nuclei / physiology*
  • Substantia Nigra / drug effects
  • Substantia Nigra / physiology*


  • Amphetamines
  • Dopamine Agents
  • Apomorphine
  • Dopamine