The nucleus accumbens (NAcc), also known as the accumbens nucleus or as the nucleus accumbens septi (Latin for nucleus adjacent to the septum) is a region in the basal forebrain rostral to the preoptic area of the hypothalamus.
The nucleus accumbens and the olfactory tubercle collectively form the ventral striatum, which is part of the basal ganglia.
Each cerebral hemisphere has its own nucleus accumbens. It is located where the head of the caudate nucleus and the anterior portion of the putamen meet just lateral to the septum pellucidum. The nucleus accumbens can be divided into two structures—the nucleus accumbens core and the nucleus accumbens shell. These structures have different morphology and function.
Research has indicated the nucleus accumbens has an important role in pleasure including laughter, reward, and reinforcement learning, as well as fear, aggression, impulsivity, addiction, and the placebo effect.
Previous imaging studies independently highlighted the role of the anterior thalamus (ANT) and nucleus accumbens (NAcc) in successful memory retrieval. While these findings accord with theoretical models, the precise temporal, oscillatory and network dynamics as well as the interplay between the NAcc and ANT in successfully retrieving information from long-term memory are largely unknown.
The University of Hamburg, Lübeck and Magdeburg in Germany addressed this issue by recording intracranial electroencephalography in human epilepsy patients from the NAcc (n = 5) and ANT (n = 4) during an old/new recognition test.
The findings demonstrate that differences in event-related potentials between correctly classified old (i.e., studied) and new (i.e., unstudied) images emerged in the NAcc and ANT already between 200 and 600 ms after stimulus onset. Moreover, time-frequency analyses revealed theta (4-8 Hz) power decreases for old compared to new items in the NAcc and the opposite effect in the ANT. Importantly, Granger causality analyses revealed a directional communication from ANT to NAcc suggesting that entrainment from ANT drives successful memory retrieval.