Scientific reports

A concurrent excitation and inhibition of dopaminergic subpopulations in response to nicotine.

PMID 25640814


Midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons are key players in motivation and reward processing. Increased DA release is thought to be central in the initiation of drug addiction. Whereas dopamine neurons are generally considered to be activated by drugs such as nicotine, we report here that nicotine not only induces excitation of ventral tegmental area (VTA) DA cells but also induces inhibition of a subset of VTA DA neurons that are anatomically segregated in the medial part of the VTA. These opposite responses do not correlate with the inhibition and excitation induced by noxious stimuli. We show that this inhibition requires D2 receptor (D2-R) activation, suggesting that a dopaminergic release is involved in the mechanism. Our findings suggest a principle of concurrent excitation and inhibition of VTA DA cells in response to nicotine. It promotes unexplored roles for DA release in addiction contrasting with the classical views of reinforcement and motivation, and give rise to a new interpretation of the mode of operation of the reward system.