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Yevgenia Kozorovitskiy, Ph.D.

Yevgenia Kozorovitskiy, Ph.D.
Program
Beckman Young Investigators

Award Year
2015

Institution
Northwestern University

Email:
Yevgenia.Kozorovitskiy@northwestern.edu

Website:
http://kozorovitskiy.org/research/

Research Title:
Synthesis of optical, physiological and computational methods in neuromodulation

Abstract:
The hormone and neuromodulator oxytocin has been linked to the function of dopaminergic reward systems through its effects on social behavior including pair bond formation, parenting, and mating. The possibility of oxytocinergic modulation of midbrain dopaminergic neurons has been suggested by behavioral and anatomical studies, but the neural circuits and physiological consequences of this potential modulation remain elusive. Here, we anatomically and functionally characterize hypothalamic oxytocinergic projections that regulate the activity of midbrain dopaminergic neurons. This oxytocin source derives from parvocellular neurons localized primarily in the lateral and posterior regions of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN). Electrophysiological recordings of dopaminergic neurons reveal a functional oxytocinergic pathway that modulates neuronal activity. Both the application of oxytocin and optogenetic stimulation of oxytocinergic terminals suffice to increase dopamine neuron activity in the VTA, but downregulate dopaminergic activity in the SNc, via local GABAergic interneurons. This biased modulation is mediated by both oxytocin and vasopressin G protein-coupled receptors. Since hypothalamic oxytocinergic projections also target the striatum, oxytocin is poised to bias the balance of dopamine tone through multiple sites in vertebrate reward circuits.

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