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PLoS Computational Biology


Two subpopulations of midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons are known to have different dynamic firing ranges in vitro that correspond to distinct projection targets: the originally identified conventional DA neurons project to the dorsal striatum and the lateral shell of the nucleus accumbens, whereas an atypical DA population with higher maximum firing frequencies projects to prefrontal regions and other limbic regions including the medial shell of nucleus accumbens. Using a computational model, we show that previously identified differences in biophysical properties do not fully account for the larger dynamic range of the atypical population and predict that the major difference is that originally identified conventional cells have larger occupancy of voltage-gated sodium channels in a long-term inactivated state that recovers slowly; stronger sodium and potassium conductances during action potential firing are also predicted for the conventional compared to the atypical DA population. These differences in sodium channel gating imply that longer intervals between spikes are required in the conventional population for full recovery from long-term inactivation induced by the preceding spike, hence the lower maximum frequency. These same differences can also change the bifurcation structure to account for distinct modes of entry into depolarization block: abrupt versus gradual. The model predicted that in cells that have entered depolarization block, it is much more likely that an additional depolarization can evoke an action potential in conventional DA population. New experiments comparing lateral to medial shell projecting neurons confirmed this model prediction, with implications for differential synaptic integration in the two populations.

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Public Library of Science

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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