Intrinsic membrane properties and synaptic inputs regulating the firing activity of the dopamine neurons

Pernilla Grillner, Nicola B. Mercuri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dopamine (DA) neurones of the ventral mesencephalon are involved in the control of reward related behaviour, cognitive functions and motor performances, and provide a critical site of action for major categories of neuropsychiatric drugs, such as antipsychotic agents, dependence producing drugs and anti-Parkinson medication. The midbrain DA neurones are mainly located in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNPC) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Intrinsic membrane properties regulate the activity of these neurones. In fact, they possess several conductances that allow them to fire in a slow pacemaker-like mode. The internal set of membrane currents interact with afferent synaptic inputs which, especially in in vivo conditions, contribute to accelerate or decelerate the firing activity of the cells in accordance with the necessity to optimise the release of dopamine in the terminal fields. In particular, discrete excitatory and inhibitory inputs transform the firing from a low regular into a bursting pattern. The bursting activity promotes dopamine release being very important in cognition and motor performances. In the present paper we review electrophysiological data regarding the role of glutamatergic and cholinergic and GABAergic afferent inputs in regulating the midbrain DAergic neuronal activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-169
Number of pages21
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 10 2002


  • Dopamine neurones
  • L-type Ca channels
  • Metabotropic glutamate receptors
  • Muscarinic receptors
  • Nicotinic receptors
  • NMDA receptors
  • Presynaptic inhibition
  • Synaptic transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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