Catecholamines in the Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis Reciprocally Respond to Reward and Aversion
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Traditionally, norepinephrine has been associated with stress responses, whereas dopamine has been associated with reward. Both of these catecholamines are found within the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), a brain relay nucleus in the extended amygdala between cortical/limbic centers, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Despite this colocalization, little is known about subsecond catecholamine signaling in subregions of the BNST in response to salient stimuli.
Changes in extracellular catecholamine concentration in subregions of the BNST in response to salient stimuli were measured within the rat BNST with fast-scan cyclic voltammetry at carbon-fiber microelectrodes.
A discrete subregional distribution of release events was observed for different catecholamines in this nucleus. In addition, rewarding and aversive tastants evoked inverse patterns of norepinephrine and dopamine release in the BNST. An aversive stimulus, quinine, activated noradrenergic signaling but inhibited dopaminergic signaling, whereas a palatable stimulus, sucrose, inhibited norepinephrine while causing dopamine release.
This reciprocal relationship, coupled with their different time courses, can provide integration of opposing hedonic states to influence response outputs appropriate for survival.