Reward and reinforcement activity in the nucleus accumbens during learning

John T. Gale, Donald C. Shields, Yumiko Ishizawa, Emad N. Eskandar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The nucleus accumbens core (NAcc) has been implicated in learning associations between sensory cues and profitable motor responses. However, the precise mechanisms that underlie these functions remain unclear. We recorded single-neuron activity from the NAcc of primates trained to perform a visual-motor associative learning task. During learning, we found two distinct classes of NAcc neurons. The first class demonstrated progressive increases in firing rates at the go-cue, feedback/tone and reward epochs of the task, as novel associations were learned. This suggests that these neurons may play a role in the exploitation of rewarding behaviors. In contrast, the second class exhibited attenuated firing rates, but only at the reward epoch of the task. These findings suggest that some NAcc neurons play a role in reward-based reinforcement during learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue numberAPR
StatePublished - Apr 3 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Incentive salience
  • Learning
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Operant conditioning
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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