The dopamine innervation of the mPFC appears to be particularly vulnerable to stress. Sufficiently low-intensity stress (such as that associated with condi tioned fear) or brief exposure to stress increases dopamine release and metabolism in the prefrontal cortex in the absence of overt changes in other mesotelencephalic dopamine regions. Low-intensity electric foot shock increases in vivo tyrosine hydroxylase and dopamine turnover in the mPFC but not the nucleus accumbens or striatum. Stress can enhance dopamine release and metabolism in other areas receiving dopamine innervation, provided that greater intensity or longer duration stress is used. Thus, the mPFC dopamine innervation is preferentially activated by stress compared to mesolimbic and nigrostriatal systems, and the mesolimbic dopamine innervation appears to be more sensitive to stress than the striatal dopamine innervation.

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