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Novelty-sensitive dopamine neurons in human substantia nigra.

Current Biology, May 2018

J. Kaminski, A.N. Mamelak, K. Birch, C.P. Mosher, M. Tagliati, U. Rutishauser

The encoding of information into long-term declarative memory is facilitated by dopamine. This process depends on hippocampal novelty signals, but it remains unknown how midbrain dopaminergic neurons are modulated by declarative-memory-based information. We recorded individual substantia nigra (SN) neurons and cortical field potentials in human patients performing a recognition memory task. We found that 25% of SN neurons were modulated by stimulus novelty. Extracellular waveform shape and anatomical location indicated that these memory-selective neurons were putatively dopaminergic. The responses of memory-selective neurons appeared 527 ms after stimulus onset, changed after a single trial, and were indicative of recognition accuracy. SN neurons phase locked to frontal cortical theta-frequency oscillations, and the extent of this coordination predicted successful memory formation. These data reveal that dopaminergic neurons in the human SN are modulated by memory signals and demonstrate a progression of information flow in the hippocampal-basal ganglia-frontal cortex loop for memory encoding.

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