Title: Vagal Control of Brain Reward Systems
Abstract: It will be argued that gut-innervating vagal sensory neurons function as reward neurons. Via asymmetric ascending pathways of vagal origin, gut signals reach brain reward regions via dedicated visceral nuclei in pons. Specifically, dopamine neurons of Substantia nigra are directly controlled by gut vagal inputs, with gut vagal activation stimulating dopamine release in striatum. A topographic sensory organization for food reward appears to exist throughout the striatum, with gastrointestinal vs. orosensory rewarding signals causing dopamine release into different striatal sectors. In sum, the gut-innervating vagal neurons have sensory-specific control over dopamine reward neurons, and may constitute a novel target for stimulation therapies for eating and affective disorders.
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