A new GABAergic somatostatin projection from the BNST onto accumbal parvalbumin neurons controls anxiety

Mol Psychiatry. 2021 Sep;26(9):4719-4741. doi: 10.1038/s41380-020-0816-3. Epub 2020 Jun 18.


The prevailing view is that parvalbumin (PV) interneurons play modulatory roles in emotional response through local medium spiny projection neurons (MSNs). Here, we show that PV activity within the nucleus accumbens shell (sNAc) is required for producing anxiety-like avoidance when mice are under anxiogenic situations. Firing rates of sNAcPV neurons were negatively correlated to exploration time in open arms (threatening environment). In addition, sNAcPV neurons exhibited high excitability in a chronic stress mouse model, which generated excessive maladaptive avoidance behavior in an anxiogenic context. We also discovered a novel GABAergic pathway from the anterior dorsal bed nuclei of stria terminalis (adBNST) to sNAcPV neurons. Optogenetic activation of these afferent terminals in sNAc produced an anxiolytic effect via GABA transmission. Next, we further demonstrated that chronic stressors attenuated the inhibitory synaptic transmission at adBNSTGABA → sNAcPV synapses, which in turn explains the hyperexcitability of sNAc PV neurons on stressed models. Therefore, activation of these GABAergic afferents in sNAc rescued the excessive avoidance behavior related to an anxious state. Finally, we identified that the majority GABAergic input neurons, which innervate sNAcPV cells, were expressing somatostatin (SOM), and also revealed that coordination between SOM- and PV- cells functioning in the BNST → NAc circuit has an inhibitory influence on anxiety-like responses. Our findings provide a potentially neurobiological basis for therapeutic interventions in pathological anxiety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety
  • GABAergic Neurons
  • Interneurons*
  • Mice
  • Parvalbumins*
  • Somatostatin


  • Parvalbumins
  • Somatostatin