Prefrontal cortex modulates desire and dread generated by nucleus accumbens glutamate disruption

Jocelyn M. Richard, Kent C. Berridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Background: Corticolimbic circuits, including direct projections from prefrontal cortex to nucleus accumbens (NAc), permit top-down control of intense motivations generated by subcortical circuits. In rats, localized disruptions of glutamate signaling within medial shell of NAc generate desire or dread, anatomically organized along a rostrocaudal gradient analogous to a limbic keyboard. At rostral locations in shell, these disruptions generate appetitive eating, but at caudal locations the disruptions generate progressively fearful behaviors (distress vocalizations, escape attempts, and antipredator reactions). Here, we asked whether medial prefrontal cortex can modulate intense motivations generated by subcortical NAc disruptions. Methods: We used simultaneous microinjections in medial prefrontal cortex regions and in NAc shell to examine whether the desire or dread generated by NAc shell disruptions is modulated by activation/inhibition of three specific regions of prefrontal cortex: medial orbitofrontal cortex, infralimbic cortex (homologous to area 25 or subgenual anterior cingulate in the human), or prelimbic cortex (midventral anterior cingulate). Results: We found that activation of medial orbitofrontal cortex biased intense bivalent motivation in an appetitive direction by amplifying generation of eating behavior by middle to caudal NAc disruptions, without altering fear. In contrast, activation of infralimbic prefrontal cortex powerfully and generally suppressed both appetitive eating and fearful behaviors generated by NAc shell disruptions. Conclusions: These results suggest that corticolimbic projections from discrete prefrontal regions can either bias motivational valence or generally suppress subcortically generated intense motivations of desire or fear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)360-370
Number of pages11
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants ( DA015188 and MH63649 to KCB) and by a National Research Service Award fellowship to JMR (MH090602). We thank Aaron Garcia and Stephen Burwell for assistance with immunohistochemistry and Alexandra DiFeliceantonio and Benjamin Saunders for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


  • Accumbens
  • eating
  • fear
  • infralimbic
  • medial orbitofrontal
  • prefrontal


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