An Oregon Health & Science University research team has uncovered a novel form of transmission between neurons in the brain that is mediated by dopamine. The neurons are found in parts of the brain associated with movement, substance abuse and mental disorders.
Scientists at the Vollum Institute, OHSU School of Medicine, reported in a study published in the journal Neuron that the neurotransmitter dopamine is released from midbrain nerve cells in a much more precise, targeted manner than previously thought. They discovered that dopamine molecules are released as packages from stores, or vesicles, in branch-like extensions of neurons called dendrites. The dopamine travels to dopamine receptors on tiny terminals within milliseconds. Until now, scientists had only detected the release of dopamine in the midbrain and suspected that the neurotransmitter was dispersed over wide areas to reach receptors.
"We’ve demonstrated that this synaptic current is over and done within a second," said John Williams, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Vollum Institute, OHSU School of Medicine, and a study co-author. "We knew dopamine was released in this place, we knew the cells were sensitive to dopamine, but nobody had been able to put the two together."
Jonathan Modie | EurekAlert!
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