Electrical stimulation of reward sites in the ventral tegmental area increases dopamine transmission in the nucleus accumbens of the rat

Behav Brain Res. 1993 Jun 30;55(2):131-41. doi: 10.1016/0166-4328(93)90109-4.


In vivo microdialysis with HPLC-ED was used to measure dopamine (DA), 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), homovanillic acid (HVA) and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) in the nucleus accumbens of the rat, prior, during, and after 15-min periods of electrical brain stimulation at sites in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) that supported intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS). In the first experiment, both ICSS and yoked stimulation of the VTA evoked significant increases in extracellular concentrations of DA, its metabolites, and 5-HIAA. Comparable results from ICSS and yoked groups were interpreted as evidence that the rewarding properties of VTA stimulation were a causal factor in the elevated DA transmission in the nucleus accumbens, rather than intense operant behavior. Further evidence for this hypothesis came from a second set of data in which changes in extracellular DA levels during the measurement of rate/intensity functions for ICSS were positively correlated. 5-HIAA concentrations also increased during ICSS but these changes were not correlated with either ICSS rate or current intensity, suggesting that changes in serotonin metabolism were unlikely to subserve brain stimulation reward in the VTA. These results add to the growing body of evidence linking changes in extracellular DA in the mesolimbic DA system with both brain stimulation reward and the conditioned and unconditioned rewarding effects of biologically relevant stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Homovanillic Acid / metabolism
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / metabolism
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Reward
  • Self Stimulation / physiology*
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Tegmentum Mesencephali / physiology*


  • 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid
  • Serotonin
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid
  • Dopamine
  • Homovanillic Acid