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Neuron. 2008 Aug 28;59(4):648-61. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.07.004.

Basolateral amygdala neurons facilitate reward-seeking behavior by exciting nucleus accumbens neurons.

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Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, Wheeler Center for the Neurobiology of Addiction, and Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, Emeryville, CA 94608, USA.


Both the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and basolateral amygdala (BLA) contribute to learned behavioral choice. Neurons in both structures that encode reward-predictive cues may underlie the decision to respond to such cues, but the neural circuits by which the BLA influences reward-seeking behavior have not been established. Here, we test the hypothesis that the BLA drives NAc neuronal responses to reward-predictive cues. First, using a disconnection experiment, we show that the BLA and dopamine projections to the NAc interact to promote the reward-seeking behavioral response. Next, we demonstrate that BLA neuronal responses to cues precede those of NAc neurons and that cue-evoked excitation of NAc neurons depends on BLA input. These results indicate that BLA input is required for dopamine to enhance the cue-evoked firing of NAc neurons and that this enhanced firing promotes reward-seeking behavior.

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