Phencyclidine affects firing activity of ventral tegmental area neurons that are related to reward and social behaviors in rats.Neuroscience. 2013 Jun 14; 240:336-48.N
Patients with schizophrenia exhibit deficits in motivation and affect, which suggests an impairment in the reward system. The psychotomimetic drug, phencyclidine (PCP), also induces schizophrenia-like negative symptoms, such as reduced motivation, blunted affect, and social withdrawal in both humans and animals. Previous studies have indicated that the dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) play a pivotal role in the development of reward-associated learning and motivation. However, how PCP affects the activity of VTA neurons during performance of a reward-related task and social interaction with others in unanesthetized animals remains unclear. Here, we recorded the unit activity of VTA neurons in freely moving rats before and after systemic administration of PCP in a classical conditioning paradigm, and during social interaction with an unfamiliar partner. In the classical conditioning task, two different tones were sequentially presented, one of which accompanied electrical stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle as an unconditioned stimulus. After identifying the response properties of recorded neurons in the classical conditioning task and social interaction, animals received an intraperitoneal injection of PCP. Our study demonstrated that most VTA neurons responsive to reward-associated stimuli were also activated during social interaction. Such activation of neurons was considerably suppressed by systemic administration of PCP, thus, PCP may affect the firing activity of VTA neurons that are involved in motivation, learning, and social interaction. Disruption of the response of VTA neurons to reward stimuli and socially interactive situations may be involved in PCP-induced impairments similar to the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.