Neuron 2012 Mar 21;73(6):1173-83. Epub 2012 Mar 21.
Department of Basic Neurosciences, University of Geneva, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.
Salient but aversive stimuli inhibit the majority of dopamine (DA) neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and cause conditioned place aversion (CPA). The cellular mechanism underlying DA neuron inhibition has not been investigated and the causal link to behavior remains elusive. Here, we show that GABA neurons of the VTA inhibit DA neurons through neurotransmission at GABA(A) receptors. We also observe that GABA neurons increase their firing in response to a footshock and provide evidence that driving GABA neurons with optogenetic effectors is sufficient to affect behavior. Taken together, our data demonstrate that synaptic inhibition of DA neurons drives place aversion.