Neuroscience. 2012 Mar 29;206:155-66. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.12.009. Epub 2012 Jan 5.
The nucleus accumbens shell (NAcS) has been implicated in controlling stress responses through corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). In addition to studies indicating that CRF in the NAcS increases appetitive motivation, there is indirect evidence suggesting that NAcS CRF may also cause aversive responses and that these behaviors may be mediated through local dopamine (DA) and acetylcholine (ACh) systems. To provide a direct test of this hypothesis, we used male Sprague-Dawley rats with implanted cannulas aimed at the NAcS. Experiment 1 showed local CRF injection (10 or 50 ng/side) to increase immobility in the forced swim test and a CRF antagonist D-Phe-CRF ((12-41)) to attenuate this depressive-like behavior. In Experiment 2, injection of CRF (250 ng/side) also decreased the rats’ preference for sucrose, while in Experiment 3, CRF (50 or 250 ng/side) induced anxiety-like behaviors in an elevated plus maze and open field. These same doses of CRF in Experiment 4 failed to alter the rats’ locomotor activity, indicating that these behavioral changes were not caused by deficits in activity. In Experiment 5, results from in vivo microdialysis revealed that CRF in the NAcS markedly increased local extracellular ACh, while also producing a small increase in DA. These results show that NAcS CRF can generate a variety of aversive behaviors, including swim depression, anhedonia, and anxiety, in addition to approach behavior. They suggest that these behaviors may occur, in part, through enhanced activation of ACh and DA in the NAcS, respectively, supporting a role for this brain area in mediating the dual effects of stress.