Dopamine depresses excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission by distinct mechanisms in the nucleus accumbens

Saleem M. Nicola, Robert C. Malenka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

144 Scopus citations


The release of dopamine (DA) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) is thought to be critical for mediating natural rewards as well as for the reinforcing actions of drugs of abuse. DA and amphetamine depress both excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission in the NAc by a presynaptic D1-like DA receptor. However, the mechanisms of depression of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission appear to be different. DA depressed the frequency of spontaneous miniature EPSCs, but the frequency of miniature IPSCs was depressed only when spontaneous release was made dependent on Ca2+ influx through voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels. Furthermore, the K+ channel blocker Ba2+ attenuated the effects of DA on evoked IPSPs, but not on EPSPs. Thus, DA appears to depress inhibitory synaptic transmission in the NAc by reducing Ca2+ influx into the presynaptic terminal, but depresses excitatory transmission by a distinct mechanism that is independent of the entry of Ca2+.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5697-5710
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 1997
Externally publishedYes



  • Amphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine
  • Minature excitatory postsynaptic currents
  • Miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Presynaptic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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