The efferent projections of the core and shell areas of the nucleus accumbens were studied with a combination of anterograde and retrograde tract-tracing methods, including Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin, horseradish peroxidase and fluorescent tracers. Both the core and shell regions project to pallidal areas, i.e. ventral pallidum and entopeduncular nucleus, with a distinct topography in the sense that the core projection is located in the dorsolateral part of ventral pallidum, whereas the shell projects to the medial part of the subcommissural ventral pallidum. Both regions of the accumbens also project to mesencephalon with a bias for the core projection to innervate the substantia nigra-lateral mesencephalic tegmentum, and for the shell projection to reach primarily the ventral tegmental-paramedian tegmentum area. The most pronounced differences between core and shell projections exist in regard to the hypothalamus and extended amygdala. Whereas the core projects primarily to the entopeduncular nucleus including a part that invades the lateral hypothalamus, the shell, in addition, projects diffusely throughout the rostrocaudal extent of the lateral hypothalamus as well as to the extended amygdala, especially its sublenticular part. Both the core and shell of the accumbens have unmistakable striatal characteristics both histologically and in their connectional patterns. The shell, however, has additional features that are reminiscent of the recently described extended amygdala [Alheid G.F. and Heimer L. (1988) Neuroscience 27, 1-39; de Olmos J.S. et al. (1985) In The Rat Nervous System, pp. 223-334]; in fact, the possibility exists that the shell represents a transitional zone that seems to characterize most of the fringes of the striatal complex, where it adjoins the extended amygdala.