Dopamine Is Signaled by Mid-frequency Oscillations and Boosts Output Layers Visual Information in Visual Cortex

Curr Biol. 2018 Jan 22;28(2):224-235.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.12.006. Epub 2018 Jan 4.


Neural oscillations are ubiquitously observed in cortical activity, and are widely believed to be crucial for mediating transmission of information across the cortex. Yet, the neural phenomena contributing to each oscillation band, and their effect on information coding and transmission, are largely unknown. Here, we investigated whether individual frequency bands specifically reflect changes in the concentrations of dopamine, an important neuromodulator, and how dopamine affects oscillatory information processing. We recorded the local field potential (LFP) at different depths of primary visual cortex (V1) in anesthetized monkeys (Macaca mulatta) during spontaneous activity and during visual stimulation with Hollywood movie clips while pharmacologically mimicking dopaminergic neuromodulation by systemic injection of L-DOPA (a metabolic precursor of dopamine). We found that dopaminergic neuromodulation had marked effects on both spontaneous and movie-evoked neural activity. During spontaneous activity, dopaminergic neuromodulation increased the power of the LFP specifically in the [19-38 Hz] band, suggesting that the power of endogenous visual cortex oscillations in this band can be used as a robust marker of dopaminergic neuromodulation. Moreover, dopamine increased visual information encoding over all frequencies during movie stimulation. The information increase due to dopamine was prominent in the supragranular layers of cortex that project to higher cortical areas and in the gamma [50-100 Hz] band that has been previously implicated in mediating feedforward information transfer. These results thus individuate new neural mechanisms by which dopamine may promote the readout of relevant sensory information by strengthening the transmission of information from primary to higher areas.

Keywords: LFPs; V1; correlations; cortical circuits; cortical layers; dopaminergic neuromodulation; information theory; local field potentials; naturalistic vision; primary visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Dopamine