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Dopamine Neuron Regulation and its Disruption in Schizophrenia and Depression

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The dopamine-containing neurons of the midbrain have been implicated in a broad array of psychiatric disorders, ranging from schizophrenia to drug abuse and depression. Dopamine neurons recorded in vivo are known to exhibit different functional activity states, including baseline tonic firing and phasic activation in response to salient stimuli. The balance between tonic and phasic firing is regulated by multiple brain regions, including the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex. Electrophysiological and behavioral studies in animal models of psychiatric disorders, as well as human imaging studies in patients, suggest that disruption to this balance may underlie psychiatric symptoms such as psychosis and anhedonia. This type of information can contribute both to a better understanding of the pathophysiology of major psychiatric disorders, as well as glean insights into novel avenues of treatment.

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