Medial Nucleus Accumbens Projections to the Ventral Tegmental Area Control Food Consumption

Colin W. Bond, Richard Trinko, Ethan Foscue, Kara Furman, Stephanie M. Groman, Jane R. Taylor, Ralph J. DiLeone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Decades of research have shown that the NAc is a critical region influencing addiction, mood, and food consumption through its effects on reinforcement learning, motivation, and hedonic experience. Pharmacological studies have demonstrated that inhibition of the NAc shell induces voracious feeding, leading to the hypothesis that the inhibitory projections that emerge from the NAc normally act to restrict feeding. While much of this work has focused on projections to the lateral hypothalamus, the role of NAc projections to the VTA in the control food intake has been largely unexplored. Using a retrograde viral labeling technique and real-time monitoring of neural activity with fiber photometry, we find that medial NAc shell projections to the VTA (mNAcfiVTA) are inhibited during food-seeking and food consumption in male mice. We also demonstrate that this circuit bidirectionally controls feeding: optogenetic activation of NAc projections to the VTA inhibits food-seeking and food intake (in both sexes), while optogenetic inhibition of this circuit potentiates food-seeking behavior. Additionally, we show that activity of the NAc to VTA pathway is necessary for adaptive inhibition of food intake in response to external cues. These data provide new insight into NAc control over feeding in mice, and contribute to an emerging literature elucidating the role of inhibitory midbrain feedback within the mesolimbic circuit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4727-4738
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number24
StatePublished - Jun 10 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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  • Dopamine
  • Feeding
  • Mesolimbic
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Reward
  • Ventral tegmental area


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