Contributions of the nucleus accumbens and its subregions to different aspects of risk-based decision making

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2011 Mar;11(1):97-112. doi: 10.3758/s13415-010-0015-9.


The nucleus accumbens (NAc) has been implicated in mediating different forms of decision making in humans and animals. In the present study, we observed that inactivation of the rat NAc, via infusion of GABA agonists, reduced preference for a large/risky option and increased response latencies on a probabilistic discounting task. Discrete inactivations of the NAc shell and core revealed further differences between these regions in mediating choice and response latencies, respectively. The effect on choice was attributable to reduced win-stay performance (i.e., choosing risky after a being rewarded for a risky choice on a preceding trial). Moreover, NAc inactivation altered choice only when the large/risky option had greater long-term value, in terms of the amount of food that could be obtained over multiple trials relative to the small/certain option. Inactivation of the NAc or the shell subregion also slightly reduced preference for larger rewards on a reward magnitude discrimination. Thus, the NAc seems to play a small role in biasing choice toward larger rewards, but its contribution to behavior is amplified when delivery of these rewards is uncertain, helping to direct response selection toward more favorable outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Baclofen / pharmacology
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • GABA-B Receptor Agonists / pharmacology
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Male
  • Muscimol / pharmacology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / anatomy & histology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Probability
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reward


  • GABA-B Receptor Agonists
  • Muscimol
  • Baclofen