Cortico-Accumbens Regulation of Approach-Avoidance Behavior Is Modified by Experience and Chronic Pain

Cell Rep. 2017 May 23;19(8):1522-1531. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.04.073.


Although optimizing decisions between drives to avoid pain and to obtain reward are critical for survival, understanding the neuronal circuit activity that regulates choice during approach-avoidance conflicts is limited. Here, we recorded neuronal activity in the infralimbic (IL) cortex and nucleus accumbens (NAc) during an approach-avoidance task. In this task, disruption of approach by a pain-predictive cue (PPC-avoidance) is extinguished by experience and reinstated in a model of chronic pain. In the IL-NAc circuit, the activity of distinct subpopulations of neurons predicts the extent of PPC-avoidance observed. Furthermore, chemogenetic and optogenetic manipulations establish that IL-NAc circuitry regulates PPC-avoidance behavior. Our results indicate that IL-NAc circuitry is engaged during approach-avoidance conflicts, and modifications of this circuit by experience and chronic pain determine whether approach or avoidance occurs.

Keywords: accumbens; approach-avoidance; choice; chronic pain; infralimbic; motivation; pain; ventral striatum; vmPFC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Chronic Pain / physiopathology*
  • Cues
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiopathology*
  • Reward