The functional organization of the cortico-nucleus accumbens-substantia nigra pars reticulata circuit was investigated in the rat using combined anatomical and electrophysiological approaches. The nucleus accumbens neurons which project to the substantia nigra pars reticulata are located in a circumscribed region of the core immediately adjacent and extending dorsally to the anterior commissure. As shown by retrograde and anterograde transports of wheatgerm agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase, the region of the nucleus accumbens related to the substantia nigra was found to receive bilateral inputs from restricted areas of the medial and lateral prefrontal cortex, i.e., prelimbic/medial orbital and dorsal agranular insular areas. The electrical stimulation of these medial and lateral prefrontal cortical areas induced excitatory responses in nucleus accumbens neurons projecting to the dorsomedial substantia nigra pars reticulata. Interestingly, an important proportion (61%) of the nucleus accumbens-nigral cells responding to the stimulation of the lateral prefrontal cortex were also excited by the stimulation of the medial prefrontal cortex, demonstrating the existence of a convergent influence of these cortical areas on single nucleus accumbens cells. Furthermore, the present data also show that the stimulation of the medial prefrontal cortex results in a powerful inhibition of the tonic firing of the substantia nigra pars reticulata neurons. In conclusion, this study reveals the existence of a functional link between the prefrontal cortex (prelimbic/medial orbital and agranular insular areas) and the nucleus accumbens neurons which innervate the dorsomedial region of the substantia nigra pars reticulata. Since the dorsomedial region of substantia nigra pars reticulata is known to project to subfields of the mediodorsal and ventromedial thalamic nuclei related to the prefrontal cortex, the present data further demonstrate the existence of a prefrontal-nucleus accumbens-thalamo-cortical circuit involving the substantia nigra pars reticulata.