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Mesolimbic pathway

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Title: Mesolimbic pathway  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Nucleus accumbens, Mesocortical pathway, Nigrostriatal pathway, Dopamine, Amphetamine
Collection: Addiction, Central Nervous System Pathways
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Mesolimbic pathway

The mesolimbic pathway can be seen here as the blue projections from the VTA to the nucleus accumbens.

The mesolimbic pathway, sometimes referred to as the reward pathway, is a dopaminergic pathway in the brain.[1] The pathway begins in the ventral tegmental area of the midbrain and connects to the nucleus accumbens. It is the most significant neural pathway in the brain in which changes occur in all known forms of addiction.[1][2][3][4]


  • Anatomy 1
  • Clinical significance 2
  • Other dopamine pathways 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The following structures are considered to be a part of the mesolimbic pathway:

Ventral tegmental area
The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is a part of the midbrain. It consists of dopaminergic, GABAergic, and glutamatergic neurons.[5] The VTA communicates with the nucleus accumbens via the medial forebrain bundle.
Nucleus accumbens
The nucleus accumbens is found in the ventral striatum and is composed of medium spiny neurons.[6][7] It is subdivided into limbic and motor subregions known as the shell and core.[5] The medium spiny neurons receive input from both the dopaminergic neurons of the VTA and the glutamatergic neurons of the hippocampus, amygdala, and medial prefrontal cortex. When they are activated by these inputs, the medium spiny neurons' projections release GABA onto the ventral pallidum.[5] The release of dopamine in this structure drives the mesolimbic system.

Clinical significance

This pathway plays a central role in neurobiology of addiction.[2][3][4] It is also implicated in schizophrenia and depression.[8][9][10] Drug addiction is defined as the compulsive use of drugs that are rewarding (i.e., activate this pathway), despite adverse consequences.[5][11] Addiction, schizophrenia, and depression all involve distinct structural changes with in this pathway.[8]

Other dopamine pathways

The other dopamine pathways are:

See also


  1. ^ a b Dreyer JL (2010). "New insights into the roles of microRNAs in drug addiction and neuroplasticity". Genome Med 2 (12): 92.  
  2. ^ a b Robison AJ, Nestler EJ (November 2011). "Transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms of addiction". Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 12 (11): 623–637.  
  3. ^ a b Blum K, Werner T, Carnes S, Carnes P, Bowirrat A, Giordano J, Oscar-Berman M, Gold M (2012). "Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll: hypothesizing common mesolimbic activation as a function of reward gene polymorphisms". J. Psychoactive Drugs 44 (1): 38–55.  
  4. ^ a b Olsen CM (December 2011). "Natural rewards, neuroplasticity, and non-drug addictions". Neuropharmacology 61 (7): 1109–22.  
  5. ^ a b c d Pierce RC, Kumaresan V. 2006. The mesolimbic dopamine system: The final common pathway for the reinforcing effect of drugs of abuse? Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 30:215-38
  6. ^ Zhang TA, Maldve RE, Morrisett RA. 2006. Coincident signaling in mesolimbic structures underlying alcohol reinforcement. Biochemical Pharmacology 72:919-27
  7. ^ Purves D et al. 2008. Neuroscience. Sinauer 4ed. 754-56
  8. ^ a b Van den Heuval DMA, Pasterkamp RJ. 2008. Getting connected in the dopamine system. Progress in Neurobiology 85:75–93
  9. ^ Laviolette SR. 2007. Dopamine modulation of emotional processing in cortical and subcortical neural circuits: evidence for a final common pathway in schizophrenia? Schizoprenia Bulletin 33:971–981
  10. ^ Diaz J. 1996. How Drugs Influence Behavior: A Neurobehavorial Approach. Prentice Hall
  11. ^ Janhunen S, Ahtee L. 2007. Differential nicotinic regulation of the nigrostriatal and mesolimbic dopaminergic pathways: Implications for drug development. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 31:287–314

External links

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