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The nucleus accumbens (NAcc), also known as the accumbens nucleus or as the nucleus accumbens septi (Latin for nucleus leaning against the septum), is a collection of neurons within the forebrain, located where the head of the caudate and the anterior portion of the putamen meet just lateral to the septum pellucidum.
This nucleus is thought to play an important role in reward, laughter, pleasure, addiction and fear.
The principal neuronal cell type found in the nucleus accumbens is the medium spiny neuron. The neurotransmitter produced by these neurons is gamma-aminobutyric acid (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 interneurons.
Output and input
The output neurons of the nucleus accumbens send axon projections to the ventral analog of the globus pallidus, known as the ventral pallidum (VP). The VP, in turn, projects to the mediodorsal (MD) nucleus of the dorsal thalamus, which projects to the prefrontal cortex. Other efferents from the nucleus accumbens include connections with the substantia nigra and pontine reticular formation. Major inputs to the nucleus accumbens include prefrontal association cortices, basolateral amygdala, and dopaminergic neurons located in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which connect via the mesolimbic pathway. 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 such as cocaine and amphetamine, which cause a manifold increase in dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens. In addition to cocaine and amphetamine, almost every drug abused by humans has been shown to increase dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens.
In the 1950s, Olds and 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.
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, sex, and video games. A recent study found that it is involved in the regulation of emotions induced by music  , perhaps consequent to its role in mediating dopamine release. It also has roles in timing, and has long been considered to be the limbic-motor interface (Mogensen).
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Nucleus_accumbens". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|