Activation of single neurons in the rat nucleus accumbens during self-stimulation of the ventral tegmental area

M. Wolske, P. P. Rompre, R. A. Wise, M. O. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Single neurons (n = 76) were recorded in the nucleus accumbens septi (NAS) of rats self-stimulating the ipsilateral medial forebrain bundle (MFB) at the level of the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Responses evoked by rewarding trains of stimulus pulses fell into five categories. The first category (40% of the sample) was characterized by a single discharge at invariant latency in response to individual pulses of the train, and hence was termed "tightly time locked" (TTL). Two TTL neurons were collision tested, and both showed collision, suggesting that self-stimulation of the VTA may involve antidromic, and thus direct, activation of a substantial number of NAS axons. The second category (26%) was characterized by discharges that varied in latency from pulse to pulse and hence was termed "loosely time locked" (LTL). Responses of the remainder of the sample showed no coupling to individual pulses but were categorized based on general firing patterns during the train: excited (7%), inhibited (4%), and no change (23%). Irrespective of category, immediately after the self-stimulation session, the likelihood of evoked discharge at monosynaptic latency by single pulse stimulation of the ipsilateral fimbria was reduced (relative to pre-session level), concurrent with elevations in mean firing rate and motor activity. NAS neurons thus exhibit vigorous activation, apparently both antidromically and orthodromically, in response to VTA self-stimulation. The responses of certain LTL and TTL neurons increased as a function of pulse number in the train, suggestive of integrative mechanisms important for brain stimulation reward. Conduction velocities of directly activated (TTL) axons (0.41-0.65 m/sec) were slower than those previously reported for first-stage, reward-relevant axons. Nonetheless, an implication of direct activation of NAS (and other MFB) axons is that rewarding stimulation triggers action potentials that could invade all axonal branches, including those between the stimulation site and the soma, and send synaptic signals to target neurons. Such signals from NAS neurons could contribute to the increased motor behavior accompanying MFB self-stimulation, and/or could interact with dopamine-mediated signals projected to the NAS from reward circuitry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain stimulation reward
  • Fimbria
  • Hippocampus
  • Medial forebrain bundle
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Sell-stimulation
  • Single-unit recording
  • Ventral tegmental area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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