Dynamics of neural coding in the accumbens during extinction and reinstatement of rewarded behavior

Patricia H. Janak, Ming Teh Chen, Tara Caulder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neural correlates of reward-seeking behavior are observed in the nucleus accumbens (NAC). The dependence of these correlates upon the presence of a reward was studied by comparing the behavioral correlates observed when the presence of the reward was manipulated within a single behavioral session. Rats were well-trained on a continuous reinforcement instrumental task reinforced by 0.1 ml drops of 5% sucrose. Extracellular single-unit neural activity was recorded from electrode arrays implanted into the NAC when instrumental behavior was and then was not reinforced with sucrose (within-session extinction). A variable delay between the instrumental response and the sucrose delivery allowed for separation of neural activity related to these task events. A spike activity increase around the time of the instrumental response was the most common behavioral correlate, while a decrease in spike activity upon sucrose delivery was the second most common behavioral correlate. Following removal of the reinforcer, subjects continued to perform the instrumental response, allowing for the examination of response-related spike activity under extinction conditions in which the response was no longer reinforced by sucrose. A majority of the response-related neural activity patterns were lost when sucrose was no longer available. New neural responses also were detected during this period. For some subjects, the reinforcer was again made available during the same session. Encoding of the primary behavioral events during this period of reinstated reinforcer was similar, but not identical, to that observed during the first period of reinforced responding. These findings reveal that instrumental task-associated spike activity within the NAC is partially dependent upon the presence of the reinforcer, and that encoding across the population is distinct under reinforced and extinction conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-135
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 23 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Electrophysiology
  • Extinction
  • Instrumental conditioning
  • Reinforcement
  • Reinstatement
  • Single-unit
  • Ventral striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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