Opioid and hypocretin neuromodulation of ventral tegmental area neuronal subpopulations.
The current view of the midbrain dopaminergic system is evolving towards a complex system of subpopulations of neurons with distinct afferent and efferent connections and, importantly, functionally different intrinsic characteristics. Recent literature on the phenotypic diversity of dopaminergic neurons has outlined that in the ventral tegmental area dopaminergic neurons are not as anatomically or electrophysiologically homogeneous as they were once thought to be. Instead, the midbrain dopaminergic system is now understood to be composed of anatomically and functionally heterogeneous dopaminergic subpopulations receiving specific afferent inputs and with different axonal projections. An additional layer of complexity is the neuromodulation of each of these dopaminergic circuits. This review will examine the distinguishing electrophysiological and neuromodulatory characteristics of the afferent and efferent connections of midbrain dopaminergic neurons.