The laterodorsal tegmentum contributes to behavioral sensitization to amphetamine

C. L. Nelson, J. B. Wetter, M. Milovanovic, M. E. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


A critical event in the development of behavioral sensitization is a transient increase in excitatory drive to dopamine neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA). This is likely to be due, in part, to the ability of drugs of abuse to produce long-term potentiation, expressed as increased AMPA receptor transmission, at excitatory synapses onto VTA dopamine neurons. We investigated the role of the laterodorsal tegmentum (LDT) in behavioral sensitization because LDT neurons provide an important source of excitatory drive to VTA dopamine neurons, through mixed glutamate and cholinergic inputs. To test the role of the LDT in amphetamine sensitization, ibotenic acid or sham lesions of the LDT were performed 1 week before the first of six daily amphetamine injections. When challenged with amphetamine 13 days after the last injection, sham rats expressed sensitization of stereotypy and post-stereotypy locomotor hyperactivity, whereas the latter was attenuated by ibotenic acid lesions of the LDT. To determine whether plasticity occurs in the LDT during amphetamine sensitization, we used a previously developed microdialysis assay in which increased ability of AMPA to activate a pathway serves as a marker for long-term potentiation. Two days after discontinuing repeated saline or amphetamine injections, the responsiveness of LDT-VTA neurons to AMPA was determined by microinjecting AMPA (0.4 nmol) into the LDT and measuring glutamate efflux in the ipsilateral VTA. Glutamate efflux was transiently increased in both groups but a delayed group difference was apparent with relatively higher glutamate efflux in amphetamine rats 30-60 min after AMPA injection. In parallel experiments, dopamine efflux in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) following intra-LDT AMPA declined in saline rats but remained relatively stable in amphetamine rats. Both results suggest relatively greater excitability of the LDT-VTA-NAc pathway after repeated amphetamine treatment. Our results provide the first evidence that neuronal plasticity in the LDT contributes to behavioral sensitization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-49
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 25 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • AMPA receptors
  • dopamine
  • long-term potentiation
  • microdialysis
  • nucleus accumbens
  • ventral tegmental area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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