Neural integration of reward, arousal, and feeding: Recruitment of VTA, lateral hypothalamus, and ventral striatal neurons



The ability to control neuronal activity using light pulses and optogenetic tools has revealed new properties of neural circuits and established causal relationships between activation of a single genetically defined population of neurons and complex behaviors. Here, we briefly review the causal effect of activity of six genetically defined neural circuits on behavior, including the dopaminergic neurons DA in the ventral tegmental area (VTA); the two main populations of medium-sized spiny neurons (D1- and D2-positive) in the striatum; the giant Cholinergic interneurons in the ventral striatum; and the hypocretin- and MCH- expressing neurons in the lateral hypothalamus. We argue that selective spatiotemporal recruitment and coordinated spiking activity among these cell type-specific neural circuits may underlie the neural integration of reward, learning, arousal and feeding. © 2011 IUBMB IUBMB Life, 2011