Nucleus accumbens
The nucleus accumbens also known as the accumbens nucleus or as the nucleus accumbens septi (Latin for nucleus
Nucleus (neuroanatomy)
In neuroanatomy, a nucleus is a brain structure consisting of a relatively compact cluster of neurons. It is one of the two most common forms of nerve cell organization, the other being layered structures such as the cerebral cortex or cerebellar cortex. In anatomical sections, a nucleus shows up...

 leaning against the septum
In anatomy, a septum is a wall, dividing a cavity or structure into smaller ones.-In human anatomy:...

), is a collection of neuron
A neuron is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information by electrical and chemical signaling. Chemical signaling occurs via synapses, specialized connections with other cells. Neurons connect to each other to form networks. Neurons are the core components of the nervous...

s and forms the main part of the ventral striatum
Ventral striatum
The ventral striatum is generally considered that part of the striatum that is connectionally associated with limbic structures, such as the amygdala, hippocampus, midline thalamus, and certain regions of the prefrontal cortex...

. It is thought to play an important role in reward
Reward system
In neuroscience, the reward system is a collection of brain structures which attempts to regulate and control behavior by inducing pleasurable effects...

, pleasure
Pleasure describes the broad class of mental states that humans and other animals experience as positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking. It includes more specific mental states such as happiness, entertainment, enjoyment, ecstasy, and euphoria...

, laughter
Laughing is a reaction to certain stimuli, fundamentally stress, which serves as an emotional balancing mechanism. Traditionally, it is considered a visual expression of happiness, or an inward feeling of joy. It may ensue from hearing a joke, being tickled, or other stimuli...

, addiction
Substance use disorder
Substance use disorders include substance abuse and substance dependence. In DSM-IV, the conditions are formally diagnosed as one or the other, but it has been proposed that DSM-5 combine the two into a single condition called "Substance-use disorder"....

, aggression
In psychology, as well as other social and behavioral sciences, aggression refers to behavior between members of the same species that is intended to cause humiliation, pain, or harm. Ferguson and Beaver defined aggressive behavior as "Behavior which is intended to increase the social dominance of...

, fear
Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger...

, and the placebo effect
Placebo effect
Placebo effect may refer to:* Placebo effect, the tendency of any medication or treatment, even an inert or ineffective one, to exhibit results simply because the recipient believes that it will work...


Each half of the brain has one nucleus accumbens. It is located where the head of the caudate
Caudate nucleus
The caudate nucleus is a nucleus located within the basal ganglia of the brains of many animal species. The caudate nucleus is an important part of the brain's learning and memory system.-Anatomy:...

 and the anterior portion of the putamen
The putamen is a round structure located at the base of the forebrain . The putamen and caudate nucleus together form the dorsal striatum. It is also one of the structures that comprises the basal ganglia. Through various pathways, the putamen is connected to the substantia nigra and globus pallidus...

 meet just lateral to the septum pellucidum
Septum pellucidum
The septum pellucidum , and not to be confused with the medial septum, is a thin, triangular, vertical membrane separating the anterior horns of the left and right lateral ventricles of the brain...

The nucleus accumbens and the olfactory tubercle
Olfactory tubercle
The olfactory tubercle is a structure involved in Olfaction.It is present in humans, but much smaller than it is in some other animals.It is a frequent subject of research.-External links:...

 collectively form the ventral striatum
Ventral striatum
The ventral striatum is generally considered that part of the striatum that is connectionally associated with limbic structures, such as the amygdala, hippocampus, midline thalamus, and certain regions of the prefrontal cortex...

, which is part of the basal ganglia
Basal ganglia
The basal ganglia are a group of nuclei of varied origin in the brains of vertebrates that act as a cohesive functional unit. They are situated at the base of the forebrain and are strongly connected with the cerebral cortex, thalamus and other brain areas...


The nucleus accumbens can be divided into two structures—the nucleus accumbens core and the nucleus accumbens shell. These structures have different morphology and function.

Cell types

The principal neuronal cell type found in the nucleus accumbens is the medium spiny neuron
Medium spiny neuron
The medium spiny neurons are a special type of inhibitory cells representing approximately 90% of the neurons within the corpus striatum of the basal ganglia. They play a key role in initiating and controlling movements of the body, limbs, and eyes....

. The neurotransmitter
Neurotransmitters are endogenous chemicals that transmit signals from a neuron to a target cell across a synapse. Neurotransmitters are packaged into synaptic vesicles clustered beneath the membrane on the presynaptic side of a synapse, and are released into the synaptic cleft, where they bind to...

 produced by these neurons is gamma-aminobutyric acid
Gamma-aminobutyric acid
γ-Aminobutyric acid is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system. It plays a role in regulating neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system...

 (GABA), one of the main inhibitory neurotransmitters of the central nervous system. These neurons are also the main projection or output neurons of the nucleus accumbens.

While 95% of the neurons in the nucleus accumbens are medium spiny GABA-ergic projection neurons, other neuronal types are also found such as large aspiny cholinergic
The word choline generally refers to the various quaternary ammonium salts containing the N,N,N-trimethylethanolammonium cation. Found in most animal tissues, choline is a primary component of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and functions with inositol as a basic constituent of lecithin...

An interneuron is a multipolar neuron which connects afferent neurons and efferent neurons in neural pathways...



The output neurons of the nucleus accumbens send axon projections to the ventral analog of the globus pallidus
Globus pallidus
The globus pallidus also known as paleostriatum, is a sub-cortical structure of the brain. Topographically, it is part of the telencephalon, but retains close functional ties with the subthalamus - both of which are part of the extrapyramidal motor system...

, known as the ventral pallidum (VP). The VP, in turn, projects to the medial dorsal nucleus
Medial dorsal nucleus
The medial dorsal nucleus is a large nucleus in the thalamus.It is believed to play a role in memory.-Anatomy:...

 of the dorsal thalamus
The thalamus is a midline paired symmetrical structure within the brains of vertebrates, including humans. It is situated between the cerebral cortex and midbrain, both in terms of location and neurological connections...

, which projects to the prefrontal cortex
Prefrontal cortex
The prefrontal cortex is the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain, lying in front of the motor and premotor areas.This brain region has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behaviors, personality expression, decision making and moderating correct social behavior...

 as well as the striatum
The striatum, also known as the neostriatum or striate nucleus, is a subcortical part of the forebrain. It is the major input station of the basal ganglia system. The striatum, in turn, gets input from the cerebral cortex...

. Other efferents from the nucleus accumbens include connections with the substantia nigra
Substantia nigra
The substantia nigra is a brain structure located in the mesencephalon that plays an important role in reward, addiction, and movement. Substantia nigra is Latin for "black substance", as parts of the substantia nigra appear darker than neighboring areas due to high levels of melanin in...

 and the pontine reticular formation.


Major inputs to the nucleus accumbens include prefrontal association cortices, basolateral amygdala
The ' are almond-shaped groups of nuclei located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans. Shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions, the amygdalae are considered part of the limbic system.-...

, and dopaminergic neurons located in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which connect via the mesolimbic pathway
Mesolimbic pathway
The mesolimbic pathway is one of the dopaminergic pathways in the brain. The pathway begins in the ventral tegmental area of the midbrain and connects to the limbic system via the nucleus accumbens, the amygdala, and the hippocampus as well as to the medial prefrontal cortex...

. Thus the nucleus accumbens is often described as one part of a cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical loop.

Dopaminergic input from the VTA is thought to modulate the activity of neurons within the nucleus accumbens. These terminals are also the site of action of highly-addictive drugs
Recreational drug use
Recreational drug use is the use of a drug, usually psychoactive, with the intention of creating or enhancing recreational experience. Such use is controversial, however, often being considered to be also drug abuse, and it is often illegal...

 such as cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 and amphetamine
Amphetamine or amfetamine is a psychostimulant drug of the phenethylamine class which produces increased wakefulness and focus in association with decreased fatigue and appetite.Brand names of medications that contain, or metabolize into, amphetamine include Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat,...

, which cause a manifold increase in dopamine
Dopamine is a catecholamine neurotransmitter present in a wide variety of animals, including both vertebrates and invertebrates. In the brain, this substituted phenethylamine functions as a neurotransmitter, activating the five known types of dopamine receptors—D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5—and their...

 levels in the nucleus accumbens. In addition to cocaine and amphetamine, almost every recreational drug has been shown to increase dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens.

Another major source of input comes from the CA1 and ventral subiculum of the hippocampus to the dorsomedial area of the Nucleus accumbens. The neurons of the hippocampus have a noteworthy correlation to slight depolarizations of cells in the nucleus accumbens, which makes them more positive and therefore more excitable. The correlated cells of these excited states of the medium spiny neurons in the Nucleus accumbens are shared equally between the subiculum and CA1. The subiculum neurons are found to hyperpolarize(increase negativity) while the CA1 neurons "ripple"(fire > 50 Hz) in order to accomplish this priming.


In the 1950s, James Olds
James Olds
James Olds was an American psychologist who co-discovered the reward center of the brain with Peter Milner while he was a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University in 1954...

 and Peter Milner implanted electrodes into the septal area of the rat and found that the rat chose to press a lever which stimulated it. It continued to prefer this even over stopping to eat or drink. This suggests that the area is the 'pleasure center' of the brain. The septal nuclei
Septal nuclei
The septal area are structures that lie below the rostrum of corpus callosum in front of lamina terminalis , composed of medium-size neurons grouped into medial, lateral, and posterior groups...

 are not directly connected to the nucleus accumbens, however.

Although the nucleus accumbens has traditionally been studied for its role in addiction, it plays an equal role in processing many rewards such as food and sex. Interestingly, the nucleus accumbens is selectively activated during the perception of pleasant, emotionally arousing pictures and during mental imagery of pleasant, emotional scenes. A 2005 study found that it is involved in the regulation of emotions induced by music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, perhaps consequent to its role in mediating dopamine release. The nucleus accumbens plays a role in rhythmic timing
Cognitive neuroscience of music
The cognitive neuroscience of music is the scientific study of brain-based mechanisms involved in the cognitive processes underlying music. Methods include functional magnetic resonance imaging , transcranial magnetic stimulation , magnetoencephalography , electroencephalography , and positron...

 and is considered to be of central importance to the limbic-motor interface (Mogensen).

In April 2007, two research teams reported on having inserted electrodes into the nucleus accumbens in order to use deep brain stimulation
Deep brain stimulation
Deep brain stimulation is a surgical treatment involving the implantation of a medical device called a brain pacemaker, which sends electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain...

 to treat severe depression
Clinical depression
Major depressive disorder is a mental disorder characterized by an all-encompassing low mood accompanied by low self-esteem, and by loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities...


In addition, in July 2007, researcher Jon-Kar Zubieta published findings that the nucleus accumbens is central to the machinery of the placebo effect
Placebo effect
Placebo effect may refer to:* Placebo effect, the tendency of any medication or treatment, even an inert or ineffective one, to exhibit results simply because the recipient believes that it will work...

. His group has confirmed that specific neural circuits and neurotransmitter systems respond to the expectation of benefit during placebo administration and that these expectations induce measurable physiological changes.

The nucleus accumbens has been targeted by stereotactic surgery
Stereotactic surgery
Stereotactic surgery or stereotaxy is a minimally invasive form of surgical intervention which makes use of a three-dimensional coordinates system to locate small targets inside the body and to perform on them some action such as ablation, biopsy, lesion, injection, stimulation, implantation,...

 for ablation as a treatment in China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 for alcoholism
Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing...


External links

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