The nucleus accumbens is believed to play a critical role in mediating the behavioral responses to rewarding stimuli. Although most studies of the accumbens focus on dopamine, it receives afferents from many other nuclei, including noradrenergic cell groups in the brainstem. We used in vivo microdialysis to measure extracellular levels of both norepinephrine and dopamine in the accumbens shell and core. Regional analysis of shell and core and border regions demonstrated that norepinephrine was high in shell and decreased from medial shell to lateral core, where baseline levels were low or undetectable. Conversely, extracellular dopamine in core was twice the level seen in shell. Both catecholamines increased following a single injection of amphetamine (2 mg/kg, i.p.). The norepinephrine response was greater and long-lasting in shell compared with core. The maximal dopamine response was higher in core than in shell, but the duration of the effect was comparable in both regions. The distinct neurochemical characteristics of shell and core are likely to contribute to the functional heterogeneity of the two subregions. Furthermore, norepinephrine may be involved in many of the functions generally attributed to the accumbens, either directly or indirectly via modulation of extracellular dopamine.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Nucleus accumbens
- Ventral striatum