Dopamine Receptors and Cognitive Function in Nonhuman Primates

  • Patricia S. Goldman-Rakic
  • Clare Bergson
  • Ladislav Mrzljak
  • Graham V. Williams
Part of the The Receptors book series (REC)


The long-range goal of relating the neurotransmitter dopamine (DA) to specific receptors and specified cognitive processes could barely have been considered even a few years ago. The cloning of five distinct DA receptors, the development of receptor-specific ligands, the anatomical precision of immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, and not least, the development of sophisticated behavioral paradigms, are among the major advances that have made understanding DA’s role in cognition a reasonable goal. All of these approaches have been applied to the analysis of the anatomical and functional architecture of the DA innervation of the prefrontal cortex in macaque monkeys. The prefrontal cortex as a model system has been a focus of study because of its evolutionary expansion and differentiation in humans and its ample DA innervation in primates in general. Experimental studies in animal models, along with a plethora of neuropsychological studies in clinical populations, suggest that specifiable cognitive processes are impaired when DA transmission is altered in the prefrontal cortex. This chapter primarily reviews findings on the anatomical and receptor mechanisms that could underlie this association in nonhuman primates. New findings indicate that a major action of DA in the prefrontal association cortex is to modulate directly excitatory neurotransmission in pyramidal neurons and regulate their ability to integrate their high level sensory input. As is described in this chapter, these effects appear to be mediated in part via D1* receptors in axospinous synapses on pyramidal neurons that are engaged in maintaining information in short-term or working memory. To the extent that the neuronal architecture of prefrontal cortex is repeated in other regions of the cerebral cortex, the mechanisms elucidated may reveal general principles of receptor function in cortical circuits.


Prefrontal Cortex Dopamine Receptor Pyramidal Neuron Dendritic Spine Nonpyramidal Neuron 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia S. Goldman-Rakic
  • Clare Bergson
  • Ladislav Mrzljak
  • Graham V. Williams

There are no affiliations available

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