Behavioral functions of nucleus accumbens dopamine: empirical and conceptual problems with the anhedonia hypothesis
Salamone JD, Cousins MS, Snyder BJ
Department of Psychology,
University of Connecticut,
Storrs 06269-1070, USA.
Neurosci Biobehav Rev 1997 May; 21(3):341-59


Nucleus accumbens (DA) has been implicated in a number of different behavioral functions, but most commonly it is said to be involved in "reward" or "reinforcement". In the present article, the putative reinforcement functions of accumbens DA are summarized in a manner described as the "General Anhedonia Model". According to this model, the DA innervation of the nucleus accumbens is conceived of as a crucial link in the "reward system", which evolved to mediate the reinforcing effects of natural stimuli such as food. The reward system is said to be activated by natural reinforcing stimuli, and this activation mediates the reinforcing effects of these natural stimuli. According to this view, other stimuli such as brain stimulation and drugs can activate this system, which leads to these stimuli being reinforcing as well. Interference with DA systems is said to blunt the reinforcing effects of these rewarding stimuli, leading to "extinction". This general model of the behavioral functions of accumbens DA is utilized widely as a theoretical framework for integrating research findings. Nevertheless, there are several difficulties with the General Anhedonia Model. Several studies have observed substantial differences between the effects of extinction and the effects of DA antagonism or accumbens DA depletions. Studies involving aversive conditions indicate that DA antagonists and accumbens DA depletions can interfere with avoidance behavior, and also have demonstrated that accumbens DA release is increased by stressful or aversive stimuli. Although accumbens DA is important for drug abuse phenomena, particularly stimulant self-administration, studies that involve other reinforcers are more problematic. A large body of evidence indicates that low doses of dopamine antagonists, or depletions of accumbens DA, do not impair fundamental aspects of food motivation such as chow consumption and simple instrumental responses for food. This is particularly important, in view of the fact that many behavioral researchers consider the regulation of food motivation to be a fundamental aspect of food reinforcement. Finally, studies employing cost/benefit analyses are reviewed, and in these studies considerable evidence indicates that accumbens DA is involved in the allocation of responses in relation to various reinforcers. Nucleus accumbens DA participates in the function of enabling organisms to overcome response costs, or obstacles, in order to obtain access to stimuli such as food. In summary, nucleus accumbens DA is not seen as directly mediating food reinforcement, but instead is seen as a higher order sensorimotor integrator that is involved in modulating response output in relation to motivational factors and response constraints. Interfering with accumbens DA appears to partially dissociate the process of primary reinforcement from processes regulating instrumental response initiation, maintenance and selection.
Opioids and anhedonia
The pleasure and the pain
Novelty reward and anhedonia
Muscarinic + nicotinic receptors
Anhedonia and the deficit syndrome
Neuobiological mechancisms of anhedonia
Depression, dopamine and dextroamphetamine
Mesolimbic medium spiny neurons and pleasure
Regulation of synapses in the nucleus accumbens
The nucleus accumbens: opioids versus cannabinoids

and further reading

Future Opioids
BLTC Research
Utopian Surgery?
The Abolitionist Project
The Hedonistic Imperative
The Reproductive Revolution
Critique of Huxley's Brave New World

The Good Drug Guide
The Good Drug Guide

The Responsible Parent's Guide
To Healthy Mood Boosters For All The Family