The medial prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortices differentially regulate dopamine system function

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76 Scopus citations


The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is essential for top-down control over higher-order executive function. In this study we demonstrate that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) differentially regulate VTA dopamine neuron activity, and furthermore, the pattern of activity in the PFC drastically alters the dopamine neuron response. Thus, although single-pulse activation of the mPFC either excites or inhibits equivalent numbers of dopamine neurons, activation of the OFC induces a primarily inhibitory response. Moreover, activation of the PFC with a pattern that mimics spontaneous burst firing of pyramidal neurons produces a strikingly different response. Specifically, burst-like activation of the mPFC induces a massive increase in dopamine neuron firing, whereas a similar pattern of OFC activation largely inhibits dopamine activity. Taken together, these data demonstrate that the mPFC and OFC differentially regulate dopamine neuron activity, and that the pattern of cortical activation is critical for determining dopamine system output.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1227-1236
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2011


  • VTA
  • dopamine
  • orbitofrontal cortex
  • prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology


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