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A model of VTA DA neuronal dynamics: A framework for studying nicotinic effects on burst firing

Mathematical Biology

Speaker: Andrew Oster, Ecole Normale Supérieure
Location: 2112 MSB
Start time: Mon, Nov 29 2010, 3:10PM

The dopaminergic (DA) neurons within the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are thought to signal reward prediction error through their tonic and phasic activity. However, recent studies suggest that burst firing of DA neurons may also convey reward-related information. Moreover, dopamine release during burst firing events is substantially greater than during regular spiking. In addition, DAergic neuronal bursting is influenced by the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). All of this suggests that burst firing is a key component of the VTA neuronal dynamics. Here we introduce a single compartmental model of a VTA DA neuron. We demonstrate that this model captures the essential qualitative behavior of DAergic neuronal dynamics, yet is simple compared to existing, detailed, multi-compartmental models. Moreover, we extend the model to include the detailed dynamics of two prevalent nAChR subtypes (a4b2 and a7) and present preliminary results into how nicotine alters DAergic neuronal dynamics. We hope the model will aid in the identification of the mechanisms for tonic to burst activity induced by nicotine application.