Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Electrophysiological analysis of dopamine cells from the substantia nigra pars compacta of circling rats

  • 89 Accesses

  • 44 Citations


Extracellular single unit recordings were obtained from dopamine cells in the substantia nigra pars compacta during forced locomotion on a circular turntable treadmill. Stainless steel wire electrodes, 18 μm diameter, insulated with Parylene C were used. During the entire recording session the rat was in the treadmill apparatus. The device was stopped while a cell was being sought. A cell was identified as dopaminergic by a frequency of 3 to 10 Hz and a biphasic or triphasic action potential of greater than 2 ms in duration. An attempt was made to record from cells under the following conditions: animal at rest, animal turning in one direction, at rest again, turning in the opposite direction and finally, at rest. If the cell was still firing after these recordings, haloperidol was injected i.p. to see that the presumed dopamine cell increased its firing rate. A cell was held for all the observations in 4 animals. In an additional 10 rats, recordings were made before, during and after movement in one direction. Three animals were recorded only before and during movement. In 6 of the total of 17 animals haloperidol was administered. Results showed that firing patterns of cells in awake animals were similar to those reported from dopamine cells of anesthetized rats. During either contralateral or ipsilateral turning the firing frequency and burst activity significantly increased. These results indicate that the activity of dopamine cells in substantia nigra is increased bilaterally during circling.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Arbuthnott GW, Ungerstedt U (1975) Turning behavior induced by electrical stimulation of the nigro-neostriatal system of the rat. Exp Neurol 47: 162–172

  2. Chavez-Noriega L, Patino P, Garcia-Munoz M (1986) Excitability changes induced in the striatal dopamine-containing terminals following frontal cortex stimulation. Brain Res 379: 300–306

  3. DeLong MR, Crutcher MD, Georgopoulos AP (1983) Relations between movement and single cell discharge in the substantia nigra of the behaving monkey. J Neurosci 3: 1599–1606

  4. Diana M, Garcia-Munoz M, Freed CR (1987) Wire electrodes for chronic single unit recording of dopamine cells in substantia nigra pars compacta of awake rats. J Neurosci Methods 21: 71–79

  5. Ewing AG, Bigelow JC, Wightman RM (1983) Direct in vivo monitoring of dopamine released from two striatal compartments in the rat. Science 221: 169–171

  6. Fabre M, Rolls ET, Ashton JP, Williams G (1983) Activity of neurons in the ventral tegmental region of the behaving monkey. Behav Brain Res 9: 213–235

  7. Freed CR, Yamamoto BK (1985) Regional brain dopamine metabolism: a marker for the speed, direction, and posture of moving animals. Science 229: 62–65

  8. Freeman AS, Meltzer LT, Bunney BS (1985) Firing properties of substantia nigra dopaminergic neurons in freely moving rats. Life Sci 36: 1983–1994

  9. Garcia-Munoz M, Patino P, Chavez-Noriega L, Arbuthnott GW, Ryman A (1987) Dopamine control of excitability changes in neostriatal terminals. In: Carpenter MB, Jayaraman A (eds) The basal ganglia. II. Plenum Press, New York, pp 149–154

  10. German DC, Miller JD (1982) A system for chronic single-unit recording in the behaving rat. Brain Res Bull 8: 539–542

  11. Glick SD, Jerussi TP, Fleisher LN (1976) Turning in circles: the neuropharmacology of rotation. Life Sci 18: 889–896

  12. Grace AA, Bunney BS (1983) Intracellular and extracellular electrophysiology of nigral dopaminergic neurons. I. Identification and characterization. Neuroscience 10: 301–315

  13. Grace AA, Bunney BS (1984) The control of firing pattern in nigral dopamine neurons: burst firing. J Neurosci 4: 2877–2890

  14. Konig JFR, Klippel RA (1963) The rat brain: a stereotaxic atlas of the forebrain and lower parts of the brain stem. Krieger, New York

  15. Miller JD, Sanghera MK, German DC (1981) Mesencephalic dopaminergic unit activity in the behaviorally conditioned rat. Life Sci 29: 1255–1263

  16. Miller JD, Farber J, Gatz P, Roffwarg H, German DC (1983) Activity of mesencephalic dopamine and non-dopamine neurons across stages of sleep and waking in the rat. Brain Res 273: 133–141

  17. Nieoullon A, Cheramy A, Glowinski J (1978) Release of dopamine evoked by electrical stimulation of the motor and visual areas of the cerebral cortex in both caudate nuclei and in the substantia nigra of the cat. Brain Res 145: 69–83

  18. Roberts PJ, Anderson SD (1979) Stimulatory effect of L-glutamate acid and related amino acids on 3H-dopamine release from rat striatum: an in vitro model for glutamate actions. J Neurochem 32: 1539–1545

  19. Schultz W (1987) The role of the primate nigrostriatal dopamine system in the initiation and conduction of behavioral acts, as derived from single cell recordings and MPTP-induced lesion effects. In: Sandler M, Feuerstein C, Scatton B (eds) Neurotransmitter interactions in the basal ganglia. Raven Press, New York, pp 95–100

  20. Schultz W, Ruffieux A, Aebischer P (1983) The activity of pars compacta neurons of the monkey substantia nigra in relation to motor activation. Exp Brain Res 51: 377–387

  21. Speciale SG, Miller JD, McMillen BA, German DC (1986) Activation of specific central dopamine pathways: locomotion and footshock. Brain Res Bull 16: 33–38

  22. Steinfels GF, Heym J, Jacobs BL (1981) Single unit activity of dopaminergic neurons in freely moving cats. Life Sci 29: 1435–1442

  23. Steinfels GF, Heym J, Strecker RE, Jacobs BL (1983a) Response of dopaminergic neurons in cat to auditory stimuli presented across the sleep-waking cycle. Brain Res 277: 150–154

  24. Steinfels GF, Heym J, Strecker RE, Jacobs BL (1983b) Behavioral correlates of dopaminergic unit activity in freely moving cats. Brain Res 258: 217–228

  25. Strecker RE, Jacobs BL (1985) Substantia nigra dopaminergic unit activity in behaving cats: effect of arousal on spontaneous discharge and sensory evoked activity. Brain Res 361: 339–350

  26. Szostak C, Jakubovic A, Phillips AG, Fibiger HC (1986) Bilateral augmentation of dopaminergic and serotonergic activity in the striatum and nucleus accumbens induced by conditioned circling. J Neurosci 6: 2037–2044

  27. Trulson ME (1985) Activity of dopamine-containing substantia nigra neurons in freely moving cats. Neurosci Behav Rev 9: 283–297

  28. Ungerstedt U (1976) 6-Hydroxydopamine-induced degeneration of the nigrostriatal dopamine pathway: the turning syndrome. Pharmacol Ther [B] 2: 37–40

  29. Yamamoto BK, Freed CR (1982) The trained circling rat: a model for inducing unilateral caudate dopamine metabolism. Nature 298: 467–468

  30. Yamamoto BK, Freed CR (1984) Asymmetric dopamine and serotonin metabolism in nigrostriatal and limbic structures of the trained circling cat. Brain Res 297: 115–119

  31. Yamamoto BK, Lane RF, Freed CR (1982) Normal rats trained to circle show asymmetric caudate dopamine release. Life Sci 30: 2155–2162

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to C. R. Freed.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Diana, M., Garcia-Munoz, M., Richards, J. et al. Electrophysiological analysis of dopamine cells from the substantia nigra pars compacta of circling rats. Exp Brain Res 74, 625–630 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00247365

Download citation

Key words

  • Substantia nigra
  • Basal ganglia
  • Turning behavior
  • Dopamine