The inhibitory influence of the lateral habenula on midbrain dopamine cells: ultrastructural evidence for indirect mediation via the rostromedial mesopontine tegmental nucleus.
ABSTRACT The lateral habenula (LHb) provides an important source of negative reinforcement signals to midbrain dopamine (DA) cells in the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area (VTA). This profound and consistent inhibitory influence involves a disynaptic connection from glutamate neurons in the LHb to some population of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) cells that, in turn, innervates DA neurons. Previous studies demonstrated that the GABA cells intrinsic to the VTA receive insufficient synaptic input from the LHb to serve as the primary source of this intermediate connection. In this investigation, we sought ultrastructural evidence supporting the hypothesis that a newly identified region of the brainstem, the rostromedial mesopontine tegmental nucleus (RMTg), is a more likely candidate for inhibiting midbrain DA cells in response to LHb activation. Electron microscopic examination of rat brain sections containing dual immunoreactivity for an anterograde tracing agent and a phenotypic marker revealed that: 1) more than 55% of the synapses formed by LHb axons in the RMTg were onto GABA-labeled dendrites; 2) more than 80% of the synapses formed by RMTg axons in the VTA contacted dendrites immunoreactive for the DA synthetic enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase; and 3) nearly all RMTg axons formed symmetric synapses and contained postembedding immunoreactivity for GABA. These findings indicate that the newly identified RMTg region is an intermediate structure in a disynaptic pathway that connects the LHb to VTA DA neurons. The results have important implications for understanding mental disorders characterized by a dysregulation of reward circuitry involving LHb and DA cell populations.
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ABSTRACT: Morphine is a highly potent analgesic with high addictive potential in specific contexts. Although dopamine neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are widely believed to play an essential role in the development of drug addiction, neuronal circuits underlying morphine action on dopamine neurons have not been fully elucidated. Here we combined in vivo electrophysiology, tract-tracing experiments, and targeted neuronal inactivation to dissect a neural circuit for acute morphine action on dopamine neurons in rats. We found that in vivo, morphine targets the GABAergic tail of the VTA, also called the rostromedial tegmental nucleus, to increase the firing of dopamine neurons through the activation of VTA μ opioid receptors expressed on tail of the VTA/rostromedial tegmental nucleus efferents. Our data also reveal that in the absence of VTA glutamatergic tone, there is no morphine-induced activation of dopamine neurons. These results define the anatomical organization and functional role of a neural circuit for acute morphine action on dopamine neurons.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2011; 108(39):16446-50. · 9.74 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The medial (MHb) and lateral (LHb) habenulae are a small group of nuclei that regulate the activity of monoaminergic neurons. Disruptions to these nuclei lead to deficits in a range of cognitive and motor functions from sleep to decision making. Interestingly, the habenular nuclei are present in all vertebrates, suggesting that they provide a common neural mechanism to influence these diverse functions. To unravel conserved habenula circuitry and approach an understanding of their basic function, we investigated the organization of these nuclei in the lamprey, one of the phylogenetically oldest vertebrates. Based on connectivity and molecular expression, we show that the MHb and LHb circuitry is conserved in the lamprey. As in mammals, separate populations of neurons in the LHb homolog project directly or indirectly to dopamine and serotonin neurons through a nucleus homologous to the GABAergic rostromedial mesopontine tegmental nucleus and directly to histamine neurons. The pallidal and hypothalamic inputs to the LHb homolog are also conserved. In contrast to other species, the habenula projecting pallidal nucleus is topographically distinct from the dorsal pallidum, the homolog of the globus pallidus interna. The efferents of the MHb homolog selectively target the interpeduncular nucleus. The MHb afferents arise from sensory (medial olfactory bulb, parapineal, and pretectum) and not limbic areas, as they do in mammals; consequently, the "context" in which this circuitry is recruited may have changed during evolution. Our results indicate that the habenular nuclei provide a common vertebrate circuitry to adapt behavior in response to rewards, stress, and other motivating factors.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 12/2011; 109(3):E164-73. · 9.74 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Head-direction cells have frequently been regarded as an internal 'compass' that can be used for navigation, although there is little evidence showing a link between their activity and spatial behavior. In a navigational task requiring the use of internal cues to return to a home location without vision (path integration), we found a robust correlation between head-direction cell activity and the rat's heading error in the rat's homing behavior. We observed two different correction processes that rats used to improve performance after an error. The more frequent one consists of 'resetting' the cell whenever the rat returns to the home location. However, we found that when large errors occur, the head-direction system has the ability to 'remap' and set a new reference frame, which is then used in subsequent trials. We also offer some insight into how these two correction processes operate when rats make an error.Nature Neuroscience 09/2012; 15(10):1445-53. · 15.25 Impact Factor