Study highlights the role of astrocytes in the synaptic regulation of VTA dopamine neurons

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Astrocytes, a sub-population of glial cells with a distinctive star-like shape, are known to play a vital role in numerous neuronal functions, including synaptic support, the regulation of energy metabolism, and the control of blood flow in the brain. While many studies have investigated their functions and associated mechanisms, their contribution to the healthy functioning of the brain is yet to be fully uncovered.

Researchers at the CNR Institute of Neuroscience and the University of Padua, the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the Polytechnic University of Le Marche in Italy have recently carried out a study investigating the so far elusive role of astrocytes in the so-called ventral tegmental area (VTA), a hub of the mesocorticolimbic circuitry that plays fundamental roles in cognition, locomotion, reward, motivation and aversion. Their findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, suggest that astrocytes participate to the synaptic regulation of VTA dopamine neurons.

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