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The dopamine innervation of the prefrontal cortex can be differentiated from other telencephalic dopamine projection fields by its sensitivity to stress. The stress-induced activation of the mesoprefrontal cortical dopamine system can be blocked by pretreatment with benzodiazepines. A group of neuroactive steroids that modulate GABA-induced chloride flux through means distinct from that of the benzodiazepines has recently been identified. Intraventricular administration of the neuroactive steroid 3 alpha,21-dihydroxy-5 alpha-pregnane-20-one resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in dopamine metabolites in the prefrontal cortex, but not in mesolimbic or striatal sites; sedative effects were not observed. Moreover, the neuroactive steroid selectively attenuated the stress-induced activation of the mesoprefrontal cortical dopamine system. These data suggest that neuroactive steroids may function as endogenous anxiolytic agents.
A dopaminergic projection from the ventral tegmental area to the ventral pallidum was identified in the rat using anterograde tract tracing and combined retrograde tracing-immunocytochemistry. The projection was found to be topographically organized such that fibers innervating the ventromedial ventral pallidum arose from neurons located along the midline nuclei of the ventral mesencephalon, including the nucleus interfascicularis and nucleus linearis caudalis. Ventral tegmental neurons situated more laterally, in the nucleus parabrachialis pigmentosus and nucleus paranigralis, projected to the ventromedial and dorsolateral ventral pallidum. The substantia nigra did not supply a major contribution to this projection. The proportion of ventral tegmental area dopaminergic neurons projecting to the ventral pallidum ranged from approximately 30% to 60%. The functional significance of the projection is indicated since intra-ventral pallidum microinjections of dopamine elicited a dose-dependent increase in locomotor activity. Furthermore, whereas pretreatment of the ventral pallidum with the GABAA agonist muscimol has been shown to attenuate opioid-induced locomotor activity elicited from the ventral pallidum, it did not attenuate the dopamine-induced motor response. Thus, while mu-opioids in the ventral pallidum may presynaptically regulate GABAergic efferents from the nucleus accumbens, it appears that the dopaminergic input directly influences the ventral pallidal output neuron which is involved in locomotion.
Substantial progress has been made in unraveling the organization of the circadian system of Aplysia californica. There are at least three circadian pacemakers in Aplysia. One has been localized in each eye and a third lies outside the eyes. Removal of the eyes disrupts the free-running locomotor activity rhythm; however, an extraocular oscillator can mediate a free-running rhythm in some eyeless animals. Although photoreceptors sufficient for entrainment of the ocular oscillator have been localized in the retina, photoreceptors outside the eyes are capable of "driving" a diurnal rhythm of locomotor activity and may also influence entrainment of ocular pacemakers. Finally, attention has been focused on the optic nerve as a coupling pathway between various parts of the system. The evidence suggests that information transmitted in the optic nerves is involved in entrainment of the ocular pacemaker by light, and in ocular control of the locomotor activity rhythm.
The interactions between the bilaterally distributed components of the circadin system that controls the locomotor activity rhythm of the cockroach Leucophaea maderae were investigated in a series of surgical lesion experiments. Complete excision of one optic lobe (either right or left) or its surgical isolation from the central nervous system had no effect on the animals' ability to free-run in constant darkness nor was there any indication, as judged by postoperative pi values of any difference between left and right lobe pacemakers. However, these surgical procedures consistently resulted in a significant increase in tau over preoperative value while optic nerve section had no effect on tau. The propostion is developed that the left and right pacemakers in the two optic lobes are mutally coupled and that the compound pacemaker's period is shorter than either of its constituent pacemakers. It was also found that the integrity of either compound eye is sufficient to assure entrainment of both left and right pacemakers.