Combined infusion and stimulation with fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (CIS-FSCV) to assess ventral tegmental area receptor regulation of phasic dopamine
Phasic dopamine (DA) release from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to the nucleus accumbens plays a pivotal role in reward processing and reinforcement learning. Understanding how the diverse neuronal inputs into the VTA control phasic DA release can provide a better picture of the circuitry that controls reward processing and reinforcement learning. Here, we describe a method that combines intra-VTA cannula infusions of pharmacological agonists and antagonists with stimulation-evoked phasic DA release (combined infusion and stimulation, or CIS) as measured by in vivo fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV). Using CIS-FSCV in anesthetized rats, a phasic DA response can be evoked by electrically stimulating the VTA with a bipolar electrode fitted with a cannula while recording in the nucleus accumbens core. Pharmacological agonists or antagonists can be infused directly at the stimulation site to investigate specific VTA receptors' roles in driving phasic DA release. A major benefit of CIS-FSCV is that VTA receptor function can be studied in vivo, building on in vitro studies.