Pain modulates dopamine neurons via a spinal–parabrachial–mesencephalic circuit

NATURE NEUROSCIENCE(2021)

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Abstract
Pain decreases the activity of many ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) neurons, yet the underlying neural circuitry connecting nociception and the DA system is not understood. Here we show that a subpopulation of lateral parabrachial (LPB) neurons is critical for relaying nociceptive signals from the spinal cord to the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNR). SNR-projecting LPB neurons are activated by noxious stimuli and silencing them blocks pain responses in two different models of pain. LPB-targeted and nociception-recipient SNR neurons regulate VTA DA activity directly through feed-forward inhibition and indirectly by inhibiting a distinct subpopulation of VTA-projecting LPB neurons thereby reducing excitatory drive onto VTA DA neurons. Correspondingly, ablation of SNR-projecting LPB neurons is sufficient to reduce pain-mediated inhibition of DA release in vivo. The identification of a neural circuit conveying nociceptive input to DA neurons is critical to our understanding of how pain influences learning and behavior.
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Key words
Neural circuits,Reward,Biomedicine,general,Neurosciences,Behavioral Sciences,Biological Techniques,Neurobiology,Animal Genetics and Genomics
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