Deep brain stimulation reveals a dissociation of consummatory and motivated behaviour in the medial and lateral nucleus accumbens shell of the rat

PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33455. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033455. Epub 2012 Mar 13.


Following the successful application of deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the treatment of Parkinson's disease and promising results in clinical trials for obsessive compulsive disorder and major depression, DBS is currently being tested in small patient-populations with eating disorders and addiction. However, in spite of its potential use in a broad spectrum of disorders, the mechanisms of action of DBS remain largely unclear and optimal neural targets for stimulation in several disorders have yet to be established. Thus, there is a great need to examine site-specific effects of DBS on a behavioural level and to understand how DBS may modulate pathological behaviour. In view of the possible application of DBS in the treatment of disorders characterized by impaired processing of reward and motivation, like addiction and eating disorders, we examined the effect of DBS of the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) on food-directed behavior. Rats were implanted with bilateral stimulation electrodes in one of three anatomically and functionally distinct sub-areas of the NAcc: the core, lateral shell (lShell) and medial shell (mShell). Subsequently, we studied the effects of DBS on food consumption, and the motivational and appetitive properties of food. The data revealed a functional dissociation between the lShell and mShell. DBS of the lShell reduced motivation to respond for sucrose under a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement, mShell DBS, however, profoundly and selectively increased the intake of chow. DBS of the NAcc core did not alter any form of food-directed behavior studied. DBS of neither structure affected sucrose preference. These data indicate that the intake of chow and the motivation to work for palatable food can independently be modulated by DBS of subregions of the NAcc shell. As such, these findings provide important leads for the possible future application of DBS as a treatment for eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Consummatory Behavior / physiology*
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / methods*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Histological Techniques
  • Male
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar