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Stephan Lammel

Last update Tuesday 04 June 2019

Dopamine Circuits in Reward and Aversion

Stephan Lammel, Ph.D.

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute
University of California Berkeley

The mesocorticolimbic dopamine (DA) system, composed of DA neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) projecting to nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex, has been intensively studied because of its importance in reward processing and drug addiction. Importantly, while VTA DA neurons were thought to represent a homogeneous cell population, recent research has demonstrated a much greater diversity of DA cell type and function than had been previously supposed. Accordingly, VTA DA neurons encode much more than reward and also contribute to negative affect such as aversion and depression. How DA mediates both reward and aversion is currently unknown and an important goal of my research. In my presentation, I will discuss recent work from the lab that has elucidated the circuit architecture and function of the different mesolimbic DA subcircuits (Yang et al., 2018, Neuron; de Jong et al., 2019; Neuron). Moreover, I will discuss unpublished data on the role of DA release in distinct nucleus accumbens subregions for action selection and inhibition. Altogether, our research suggest that we need to develop a new perspective on the mesocorticolimbic DA system that will guide future treatment strategies for addiction and other neuropsychiatric disorders where dysfunction of the neural systems underlying motivated behaviors have been strongly implicated.