Stimulation of prefrontal cortex at physiologically relevant frequencies inhibits dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Bita Moghaddam Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, VA Medical Center 116 A/2, West Haven, CT 06516, USA. E-mail:


The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is thought to provide an excitatory influence on the output of mesoaccumbens dopamine neurons. The evidence for this influence primarily arises from findings in the rat that chemical or high-intensity and high-frequency (60–200 Hz) electrical stimulations of PFC increase burst activity of midbrain dopamine neurons, and augment terminal release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. However, PFC neurons in animals that are engaged in PFC-dependent cognitive tasks increase their firing frequency from a baseline of 1–3 Hz to 7–10 Hz, suggesting that the commonly used high-frequency stimulation parameters of the PFC may not be relevant to the behavioral states that are associated with PFC activation. We investigated the influence of PFC activation at lower physiologically relevant frequencies on the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. Using rapid (5-min) microdialysis measures of extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, we found that although PFC stimulation at 60 Hz produces the expected increases in accumbal dopamine release, the same amplitude of PFC stimulation at 10 Hz significantly decreased these levels. These results indicate that activation of PFC, at frequencies that are associated with increased cognitive demand on this region, inhibits the mesoaccumbens dopamine system.