Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
The nucleus accumbens (NAc) is involved in associative learning and motivated behavior but its role in Sensory Preconditioning (SPC) remains unknown. Here, electrophysiological recordings were taken from the NAc core while rats performed three phases of a SPC task. During Preconditioning (phase 1), the NAc was more activated by a stimulus that was preceded by another stimulus, versus the same stimulus presented in isolation, suggesting that the NAc may encode information about neutral cue associations. During First-Order Conditioning (FOC) (phase 2), animals readily acquired the association between the conditioned and unconditioned stimulus, and this information was processed by distinct populations of NAc neurons. At SPC Test (phase 3), animals showed behavioral evidence of SPC; however, NAc activity did not track this behavior. These findings show that although the NAc encodes associations between neutral stimuli in Preconditioning, and processes information about FOC, SPC expression is not encoded by the NAc core.