Topographical Organization of GABAergic Neurons Within the Ventral Tegmental Area of the Rat

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Abstract

The ventral tegmental area (VTA), the origin of dopaminergic cell bodies that comprise the mesocorticolimibic DA system, is widely implicated in drug and natural reward, cognition, and several psychiatric disorders. In addition to dopaminergic neurons, this region is populated by GABAergic neurons, which both regulate the firing of their dopaminergic counterparts and send projections throughout the brain. Although the dopaminergic neurons of the VTA have been extensively characterized neuroanatomically, much less is known about the GABAergic neurons in this region. Recent data suggest that the rostro-caudal topographic organization of these GABAergic neurons may correspond to their ability to regulate drug reward. In the present study, we used immunohistochemical techniques to examine the frequency and topography of GABAergic neurons throughout the rostro-caudal axis of the VTA and the extent to which they coexpress other proteins, including tyrosine hydroxylase (a marker of DA neurons), cholecystokinin, parvalbumin, calretinin, and calbindin d 28k.

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