2-Minute Neuroscience: Nucleus Accumbens
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  • Release Date: 2024-04-07
  • brain
  • reward system
  • stimuli
  • basal forebrain
Video Introduction

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The nucleus accumbens is located in the basal forebrain, and is the major component of the ventral striatum. Although it is best known as a key structure in the reward system, the role of the nucleus accumbens in reward is still not fully understood. This is due in part to the fact that the nucleus accumbens also seems to be activated in response to aversive stimuli, and thus some have suggested that it is involved in responses to all motivationally-relevant stimuli---whether positive or negative. [1][2]

The nucleus accumbens is found in a part of the brain called the basal forebrain, which is located near the front and bottom of the brain. The nucleus accumbens is the major component of the ventral striatum, and is situated between the caudate and putamen. The nucleus accumbens is typically divided into two anatomical components: an outer shell and a central core. There are thought to be functional differences between these two regions, where the shell is more associated with the limbic system and the core is more strongly connected to the motor system. It should be noted, however, that while this distinction between shell and core is clearly seen in rodents, it is less evident in humans.

Although the nucleus accumbens is best known as part of the reward system, its functions are much more complex than simple reward processing and are still not fully understood. The nucleus earned its reputation as a key part of the reward system in a large part due to its connections with the ventral tegmental area, or VTA. Dopamine neurons project from the VTA to the nucleus accumbens as part of the mesolimbic dopamine pathway and this pathway is activated in association with rewards. 

However, the exact role of the nucleus accumbens in processing rewards is not completely clear. It is thought that the nucleus accumbens likely plays a role in learning about rewards and the stimuli that are associated with them. It also seems to be important to stimulating the pursuit of rewards and the selection of actions that are most likely to result in the attainment of a reward, along with the suppression of actions that are less likely to be useful. The nucleus accumbens also appears to be important in processing aversive experiences, however, and in learning to move away from aversive stimuli. Thus, the nucleus accumbens appears to be involved in responses to all motivationally-relevant stimuli, whether rewarding or aversive.

  1. Floresco SB. The nucleus accumbens: an interface between cognition, emotion, and action. Annu Rev Psychol. 2015 Jan 3;66:25-52. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115159. Epub 2014 Sep 17.
  2. Lucas-Neto L, Neto D, Oliveira E, Martins H, Mourato B, Correia F, Rainha-Campos A, Gonçalves-Ferreira A. Three dimensional anatomy of the human nucleus accumbens. Acta Neurochir (Wien). 2013 Dec;155(12):2389-98. doi: 10.1007/s00701-013-1820-z. Epub 2013 Aug 3.
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Challenged, N. 2-Minute Neuroscience: Nucleus Accumbens. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1186 (accessed on 25 May 2024).
Challenged N. 2-Minute Neuroscience: Nucleus Accumbens. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1186. Accessed May 25, 2024.
Challenged, Neuroscientifically. "2-Minute Neuroscience: Nucleus Accumbens" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1186 (accessed May 25, 2024).
Challenged, N. (2024, April 07). 2-Minute Neuroscience: Nucleus Accumbens. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/video/video_detail/1186
Challenged, Neuroscientifically. "2-Minute Neuroscience: Nucleus Accumbens." Encyclopedia. Web. 07 April, 2024.
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