Learning in the nucleus accumbens

consciousnessLearning and memory: Teaching the accumbens a valuable lesson

Nature Reviews Neuroscience 14, 2-3, January 2013, doi.1038/nrn3419

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter most involved in learning from environmental stimuli. This involves projections from neurons in the ventral tegmental (VTA) to the nucleus accumbens in the basal ganglia. This paper discusses an additional influence involving projections of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. These also project from the ventral tegmental to the nucleus accumbens. These projections target particular interneurons that cease firing temporarily when exposed to rewarding or aversive stimuli. This pause in activity has been shown to be correlated with learning to associate a particular stimulus with a particular outcome.

Dopamine projection and the nucleus accumbens are part of the brain’s reward circuit. In this system the orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate play an important role. These latter are brain regions in which activation can correlate directly with subjective experience.

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