Basolateral amygdala neurons facilitate reward-seeking behavior by exciting nucleus accumbens neurons

Neuron. 2008 Aug 28;59(4):648-61. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.07.004.


Both the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and basolateral amygdala (BLA) contribute to learned behavioral choice. Neurons in both structures that encode reward-predictive cues may underlie the decision to respond to such cues, but the neural circuits by which the BLA influences reward-seeking behavior have not been established. Here, we test the hypothesis that the BLA drives NAc neuronal responses to reward-predictive cues. First, using a disconnection experiment, we show that the BLA and dopamine projections to the NAc interact to promote the reward-seeking behavioral response. Next, we demonstrate that BLA neuronal responses to cues precede those of NAc neurons and that cue-evoked excitation of NAc neurons depends on BLA input. These results indicate that BLA input is required for dopamine to enhance the cue-evoked firing of NAc neurons and that this enhanced firing promotes reward-seeking behavior.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / cytology
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Glycopeptides
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / cytology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reward*


  • AN 0900
  • Glycopeptides
  • Dopamine