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Science 307 (5714): 1476-1479

Copyright © 2005 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

How Visual Stimuli Activate Dopaminergic Neurons at Short Latency

Eleanor Dommett,1* Véronique Coizet,1* Charles D. Blaha,2{dagger} John Martindale,1 Véronique Lefebvre,1 Natalie Walton,1 John E. W. Mayhew,1 Paul G. Overton,1 Peter Redgrave1{ddagger}

Abstract: Unexpected, biologically salient stimuli elicit a short-latency, phasic response in midbrain dopaminergic (DA) neurons. Although this signal is important for reinforcement learning, the information it conveys to forebrain target structures remains uncertain. One way to decode the phasic DA signal would be to determine the perceptual properties of sensory inputs to DA neurons. After local disinhibition of the superior colliculus in anesthetized rats, DA neurons became visually responsive, whereas disinhibition of the visual cortex was ineffective. As the primary source of visual afferents, the limited processing capacities of the colliculus may constrain the visual information content of phasic DA responses.

1 Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TP, UK.
2 Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia.

* These authors contributed equally to this work.

{dagger} Present address: Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152–3230, USA.

{ddagger} To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: P.Redgrave{at}

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