Nucleus accumbens dopamine and learned fear revisited: a review and some new findings

Liat Levita, Jeffrey W Dalley, Trevor W Robbins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A role for the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and its dopamine (DA) innervation in fear and fear learning is supported by a large body of evidence, which has challenged the view that the NAcc is solely involved in mediating appetitive processes. Unfortunately, due to conflicting findings in the aversive conditioning literature the role of the NAcc in aversive conditioning remains unclear. This review focuses on the results of recent in vivo microdialysis studies that have examined the release of NAcc DA during Pavlovian aversive conditioning. In addition, we present additional new findings, which re-examine the involvement of NAcc DA in aversive conditioning. DA release was measured in the NAcc core using in vivo microdialysis during discrete cue Pavlovian aversive conditioning in four experiments. In all cases no change in DA levels was observed either during training or in response to the CS presentations despite robust behavioural evidence of discrete cue Pavlovian aversive conditioning. These findings contrast with some previous studies that show that primary and conditioned aversive stimuli increase DA release in the NAcc. We suggest that the inconsistencies in the literature might be due to procedural differences in the measurement of aversive conditioning, and the precise location of the probe in the NAcc region. Hence, rather than discount an involvement of NAcc DA in affective processes, we propose that functionally dissociable sub-regions of the NAcc may contribute to different aspects of Pavlovian aversive learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-27
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior
  • Brain Mapping
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Dopamine
  • Fear
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Nucleus Accumbens
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains

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