Oxytocin functions as a spatiotemporal filter for excitatory synaptic inputs to VTA dopamine neurons

Lei Xiao, Michael F. Priest, Yevgenia Kozorovitskiy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The experience of rewarding or aversive stimuli is encoded by distinct afferents to dopamine (DA) neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Several neuromodulatory systems including oxytocin regulate DA neuron excitability and synaptic transmission that process socially meaningful stimuli. We and others have recently characterized oxytocinergic modulation of activity in mouse VTA DA neurons, but the mechanisms underlying oxytocinergic modulation of synaptic transmission in DA neurons remain poorly understood. Here, we find that oxytocin application or optogenetic release decrease excitatory synaptic transmission, via long lasting, presynaptic, endocannabinoid-dependent mechanisms. Oxytocin modulation of excitatory transmission alters the magnitude of short and long-term depression. We find that only some glutamatergic projections to DA neurons express CB1 receptors. Optogenetic stimulation of three major VTA inputs demonstrates that oxytocin modulation is limited to projections that show evidence of CB1R transcripts. Thus, oxytocin gates information flow into reward circuits in a temporally selective and pathway-specific manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere33892
StatePublished - Apr 20 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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