The emergence of the volume transmission concept

Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 1998 May;26(2-3):136-47. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0173(97)00048-9.


Interneuronal communication in the central nervous system (CNS) have always been of basic importance for theories on the cerebral morphofunctional architecture. Our group has proposed that intercellular communication in the brain can be grouped into 2 broad classes based on some general features of the transmission: wiring (WT) and volume (VT) transmission. WT occurs via a relatively constrained cellular chain (wire), while VT consists of 3-dimensional diffusion of signals in the extracellular fluid (ECF) for distances larger than the synaptic cleft. Both morphological and functional evidence indicates that dopamine (DA) synapses in striatum are 'open' synapses, i.e., synapses which favor diffusion of the transmitter into the surrounding ECF and observations are compatible with the view that DA varicosities can synthesize, store and release DA for VT. The DAergic mesostriatal transmission has, therefore, been examined by several groups to give experimental support to VT. Moreover, due to its minor structural requirements, VT may become prevalent under some pathological conditions, e. g. Parkinson's disease. In animal models of DAergic pathway degeneration, it has been shown that a compensatory activation of surviving DA terminals may lead to a preferential potentiation of VT. WT and VT favor different and complementary types of computation. VT is markedly slower and less safe than WT, but has minor spatial constraints and allows the reach of a large number of targets. Models of neuronal systems integrating classical neuronal circuits and diffusible signals begin to show how WT and VT may interact in the neural tissue.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Dopamine