In the last decades, the contribution given by basic electrophysiology to the understanding of the nigrostriatal pathway in mammals has been rather important. The main results obtained by our group will be revised in this short review. The most common responses produced by dopamine (DA) on the principal striatal cells (the medium spiny neurons) are the modulation of the corticostriatal synaptic transmission and the decrease of voltage-dependent inward conductances. After blockade of DA transmission, both spontaneous and cortically driven glutamatergic postsynaptic potentials were inhibited by the selective activation of DA D2 receptors. In naive animals, the DA-mediated inhibition of postsynaptic firing activity was mediated by D1 receptor activation. Nevertheless, the two main subclasses of DA receptors seemed to cooperate in the formation of the long-term depression (LTD) of excitatory synaptic transmission in the striatum. The excitotoxic hypothesis of neurodegeneration has further stimulated our interest towards the study of the interactions between DA and other neurotransmitters into the basal ganglia.
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