Dopamine neurons change the type of excitability in response to stimuli
Dopamine neurons play a central role in guiding motivated behaviors. However, complete understanding of computations these neurons perform to encode rewarding and salient stimuli is still forthcoming. Network connectivity influences neural responses to stimuli, but so do intrinsic excitability properties of individual neurons, as such properties define synchronization qualities and neural coding strategy. We investigated the excitability type of the DA neuron and found that, depending on the synaptic and intrinsic current composition, DA neurons can switch from type I to type II excitability. In short, without synaptic inputs or under balanced excitatory and inhibitory inputs DA neurons exhibits type I excitability, while excitatory AMPAR inputs can switch the neuron to type II. Type I neurons are best suited for coding the stimulus intensity due to their ability to decrease the firing rate smoothly. Type I excitability might be important for achieving low a basal DA concentration necessary for normal brain functioning. Switching to type II excitability further enables robust transient DA release of heterogeneous DA neuron population in response to correlated inputs, partially due to evoked population synchrony.