Accumbens dopamine-acetylcholine balance in approach and avoidance

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Understanding systems for approach and avoidance is basic for behavioral neuroscience. Research on the neural organization and functions of the dorsal striatum in movement disorders, such as Huntington's and Parkinson's Disease, can inform the study of the nucleus accumbens (NAc) in motivational disorders, such as addiction and depression. We propose opposing roles for dopamine (DA) and acetylcholine (ACh) in the NAc in the control of GABA output systems for approach and avoidance. Contrary to DA, which fosters approach, ACh release is a correlate or cause of meal satiation, conditioned taste aversion and aversive brain stimulation. ACh may also counteract excessive DA-mediated approach behavior as revealed during withdrawal from drugs of abuse or sugar when the animal enters an ACh-mediated state of anxiety and behavioral depression. This review summarizes evidence that ACh is important in the inhibition of behavior when extracellular DA is high and the generation of an anxious or depressed state when DA is relatively low.

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