Ana João Rodrigues

Neurobiological basis of reward

Ana João Rodrigues
Daily, individuals must adapt their behavior to acquire rewards and to avoid aversive stimulus. Maladaptive changes in the neural circuits that drive reward and aversion are present in several neuropsychiatric disorders including depression and addiction.
In this seminar, I will focus in a core region of the brain reward circuit, the nucleus accumbens (NAc), which has been associated with reinforcement and motivation. I will show that by differentially targeting/manipulating different neuronal populations of NAc, one can drive both reward and aversion. This bidirectional effect was associated with distinct electrophysiological effects in downstream regions, namely the VTA and the ventral pallidum. I will also present evidence that prenatal stress differentially impacts NAc neurons (but also other brain regions of the reward circuit), leading to increased vulnerability for depression and addictive behaviors later in life.