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Recent electrophysiological studies demonstrate that the ventral medial prefrontal cortex has a powerful inhibitory influence on 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) neurones in the dorsal raphe nucleus. Here we utilised a combination of anatomical and electrophysiological methods to characterise the cellular substrate underlying this effect.Anterograde tracing (Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin) using electron microscopy demonstrated a pathway from the ventral medial prefrontal cortex that makes neuronal contacts throughout the dorsal raphe nucleus. These contacts were predominantly asymmetrical synapses adjoining GABA immunoreactive dendrites and spines. In vivo extracellular recordings were made in the dorsal raphe nucleus of the anaesthetised rat from a subpopulation of non-5-HT neurones. These neurones were fast-firing, irregular and with short spike width, properties strongly reminiscent of immunochemically identified GABA interneurones in other brain regions. Recordings of classical 5-HT neurones were also included. Electrical stimulation of the ventral medial prefrontal cortex elicited a rapid onset (16 ms latency), orthodromic excitation of the non-5-HT neurones (13/25 neurones). This stimulation also caused a pronounced inhibition of most 5-HT neurones tested, with a longer latency (30 ms), and this was partially blocked by locally applied bicuculline. These data provide the first evidence that the ventral medial prefrontal cortex influences the activity of large numbers of raphe 5-HT neurones by targeting a local network of GABA neurones. This circuitry predicts that physiological and pathological changes in the ventral medial prefrontal cortex will impact on significant parts of the forebrain 5-HT system.


Journal article



Publication Date





783 - 792


Action Potentials, Animals, Dendrites, Electric Stimulation, GABA Antagonists, Immunohistochemistry, Interneurons, Male, Mesencephalon, Microscopy, Electron, Molecular Probes, Neural Inhibition, Neural Pathways, Phytohemagglutinins, Prefrontal Cortex, Presynaptic Terminals, Raphe Nuclei, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, Reaction Time, Serotonin, gamma-Aminobutyric Acid