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Papers of the Week

Papers: 29 Jul 2023 - 4 Aug 2023

2023 Jul 13



The Endogenous Opioid Met-Enkephalin Modulates Thalamo-Cortical Excitation Inhibition Balance in a Medial Thalamus-Anterior Cingulate Cortex Circuit.


Arias Hervert E, Birdsong W


Activation of opioid receptors in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) mediates aspects of analgesia induced by both exogenous and endogenous opioids. We have previously shown that opioid signaling disrupts both afferent excitatory and indirect inhibitory synaptic transmission from the medial thalamus (MThal) to the ACC, but the effects of endogenous opioids within this circuit remain poorly understood. The goal of the current study was to understand how the endogenous opioid, [Met]5-enkephalin (ME), modulates thalamic-driven excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission onto layer V pyramidal neurons in the ACC. We used pharmacology, brain slice electrophysiology and optogenetic stimulation to study opioid-mediated modulation of optically evoked glutamatergic and GABAergic transmission. The results revealed that ME inhibited both AMPA-mediated excitatory and GABA-mediated inhibitory synaptic transmission in the ACC. However, inhibitory transmission was more potently inhibited than excitatory transmission by ME. This preferential reduction in GABAA-mediated synaptic transmission was primarily due to the activation of delta opioid receptors by ME and resulted in a net disinhibition of MThal-ACC excitatory pathway. These results suggest that moderate concentrations of ME can lead to net excitation of ACC circuitry and that analgesia may be associated with disinhibition rather than inhibition of ACC subcircuits.