, Volume 22, Issue 11, pp 1387-1394

The Effects of Stress on Central Dopaminergic Neurons: Possible Clinical Implications

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The response of the central nervous system to stress is often critical to the adaptation of an organism to its environment. However, in humans the response to stress also can be maladaptive, resulting in the expression or exacerbation of many neurological and psychiatric disorders. In this review, we examine the impact of stress on the synthesis and release of dopamine within mesocortical, mesoaccumbens, and nigrostriatal dopamine projections. We note that whereas stress increases the neurochemical activity of each of these populations of dopamine neurons, heterogeneities do exist. Specifically, acute stress evokes a greater increase in dopamine metabolism and release within the prefrontal cortex than the subcortical sites. Furthermore, whereas prior exposure to chronic stress enhances the response of mesocortical dopamine neurons to an acute novel stressor, this does not occur in the subcortical sites. In addition to these regional heterogeneities, we also note that even within a single dopamine projection there can be heterogeneous regulation of dopamine synthesis and release. Specifically, whereas stress-induced dopamine release in the neostriatum is mediated by an action of glutamate on the dopamine cell body, stress-induced dopamine synthesis in the neostriatum is mediated by an action of glutamate on the dopamine nerve terminal. Finally, we propose that regional heterogeneities in the responsiveness of central dopamine neurons to stress may ultimately play a role in the expression and exacerbation of symptoms associated with schizophrenia.