Dopamine Acts via D2-Like Receptors to Modulate Auditory Responses in the Inferior Colliculus

eNeuro. 2019 Oct 14;6(5):ENEURO.0350-19.2019. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0350-19.2019. Print Sep/Oct 2019.


The ability to understand speech relies on accurate auditory processing of complex sounds. Individuals with Parkinson's disease suffer from speech perception deficits, suggesting that dopamine is involved in the encoding of complex sounds. Recent studies have demonstrated that dopamine has heterogeneous effects on the responses of many neurons in the inferior colliculus (IC) of mice, although the strongest effect is to suppress neural activity. However, it was previously unknown which dopamine receptors are involved in modulating neuronal responses, and whether the observed preponderance of depressive effects reflects the endogenous dopamine system in the IC. In this study, we tested whether dopamine acts via D1- and/or D2-like receptors to alter responses of IC neurons in female and male mice. We also tested the effect of optogenetically induced dopamine release on auditory responses in the IC. We found that the effects of dopamine in the IC occur via D2-like receptors. In iontophoretic and freely behaving experiments, the single-unit and multi-unit effects of dopamine and a D2-like agonist were heterogeneous as both either increased or decreased responses of IC neurons to tones, while a D2-like antagonist had opposite effects. We also found that optogenetic activation of the endogenous dopamine system in the IC alters responses of auditory neurons. Similar to the effects of exogenous dopamine application, optogenetic induction of endogenous dopamine release heterogeneously altered auditory responses in the majority of cells in mice expressing channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2). Understanding how dopamine modulates auditory processing will ultimately inform therapies targeting mechanisms underlying auditory-related communication disorders.

Keywords: Parkinson’s; auditory; dopamine; inferior colliculus; mice; optogenetics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Inferior Colliculi / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Dopamine