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Emotional environments retune the valence of appetitive versus fearful functions in nucleus accumbens


The nucleus accumbens mediates both appetitive motivation for rewards and fearful motivation toward threats, which are generated in part by glutamate-related circuits organized in a keyboard fashion. At rostral sites of the medial shell, localized glutamate disruptions typically generate intense appetitive behaviors in rats, but the disruption incrementally generates fearful behaviors as microinjection sites move more caudally. We found that exposure to stressful environments caused caudal fear-generating zones to expand rostrally, filling 90% of the shell. Conversely, a preferred home environment caused fear-generating zones to shrink and appetitive-generating zones to expand caudally, filling 90% of the shell. Thus, the emotional environments retuned the generation of motivation in corticolimbic circuits.

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Figure 1: Examples of Fos plumes surrounding microinjections.
Figure 2: Fos plume maps of appetitive versus fearful behaviors generated by DNQX microinjections.
Figure 3: Summary map of glutamatergic valence generation in the medial shell.


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We thank S. Mahler and E. Jackson for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript and P. Hoberg and M. DiMondo for assistance with histology. Finally, we are grateful to the musician and former University of Michigan student Iggy Pop for developing art that is also of use to science. This research was supported by US National Institutes of Health grants (MH63649 and DA015188 to K.C.B.) and by a National Research Service Award fellowship to S.M.R. (DA14679).

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Correspondence to Sheila M Reynolds or Kent C Berridge.

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Reynolds, S., Berridge, K. Emotional environments retune the valence of appetitive versus fearful functions in nucleus accumbens. Nat Neurosci 11, 423–425 (2008).

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