The transcription factor cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) has been shown to regulate an animal's behavioral responsiveness to emotionally salient stimuli, and an increase in CREB phosphorylation in the NAc has been observed during exposure to rewarding stimuli, such as drugs of abuse. Here we show that CREB phosphorylation increases in the NAc also during exposure to cues that an animal has associated with delivery of natural rewards. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats (rattus norvegicus) were trained to associate an auditory stimulus with delivery of food pellets, and CREB phosphorylation was examined in the striatum following training. We found that repeated tone-food pairings resulted in an increase in CREB phosphorylation in the NAc but not in the adjacent dorsal striatum or in the NAc 3 h after the final training session. We further found that the cue itself, as opposed to the food pellets, the training context, or tone-food pairings, was sufficient to increase CREB phosphorylation in the NAc. These results suggest that the processing of primary rewarding stimuli and of environmental cues that predict them triggers similar accumbal signaling mechanisms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience