Dopaminergic pathways

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Mesolimbic dopaminergic and serotonergic pathways.

Dopaminergic pathways, sometimes called dopaminergic projections, are neural pathways in the brain that transmit the neurotransmitter dopamine from one region of the brain to another.[1][2]

The neurons of the dopaminergic pathways have axons that run the entire length of the pathway. The neurons' somata produce the enzymes that synthesize dopamine, and they are then transmitted via the projecting axons to their synaptic destinations, where most of the dopamine is produced. Dopaminergic nerve cell bodies in such areas as the substantia nigra tend to be pigmented due to the presence of the black pigment melanin.


There are eight dopaminergic pathways. The four major ones are:

Name Description Disorders
mesolimbic pathway The mesolimbic pathway transmits dopamine from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to the limbic system via the nucleus accumbens. The VTA is located in the midbrain, and the nucleus accumbens is in the ventral striatum. The "meso" prefix in the word "mesolimbic" refers to the midbrain, or "middle brain", since "meso" means "middle" in Greek. schizophrenia
mesocortical pathway The mesocortical pathway transmits dopamine from the VTA to the frontal cortex. The "meso" prefix in "mesocortical" refers to the VTA, which is located in the midbrain, and "cortical" refers to the cortex. schizophrenia
nigrostriatal pathway The nigrostriatal pathway transmits dopamine from the substantia nigra to the striatum. This pathway is associated with motor control. Parkinson's disease, chorea
tuberoinfundibular pathway The tuberoinfundibular pathway transmits dopamine from the hypothalamus to the pituitary gland. This pathway influences the secretion of certain hormones, including prolactin. "Infundibular" in the word "tuberoinfundibular" refers to the cup or infundibulum, out of which the pituitary gland develops. hyperprolactinaemia

The mesocortical and mesolimbic pathways are sometimes referred to simultaneously as the mesocorticolimbic projection, system, or pathway.[2][3]


  1. ^ "Beyond the Reward Pathway". Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  2. ^ a b Le Moal, Michel. "Mesocorticolimbic Dopaminergic Neurons". Neuropsychopharmacology: The Fifth Generation of Progress. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Doyon WM, Thomas AM, Ostroumov A, Dong Y, Dani JA (October 2013). "Potential substrates for nicotine and alcohol interactions: a focus on the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system". Biochem. Pharmacol. 86 (8): 1181–93. doi:10.1016/j.bcp.2013.07.007. PMID 23876345.