The nucleus accumbens is the most inferior part of the striatum and is mainly connected to the limbic system. It is neurochemically and immunohistochemically divided into a shell laterally and a core medially. As a functionally central structure between amygdala, basal ganglia, mesolimbic dopaminergic regions, mediodorsal thalamus and prefrontal cortex, the nucleus accumbens appears to play a modulative role in the flow of the information from the amygdaloid complex to these regions. Dopamine is a major neurotransmitter of the nucleus accumbens and this nucleus has a modulative function to the amygdala-basal ganglia-prefrontal cortex circuit. Together with the prefrontal cortex and amygdala, nucleus accumbens consists a part of the cerebral circuit which regulates functions associated with effort. It is anatomically located in a unique way to serve emotional and behavioral components of feelings. It is considered as a neural interface between motivation and action, having a key-role in food intake, sexual behavior, reward-motivated behavior, stress-related behavior and substance-dependence. It is involved in several cognitive, emotional and psychomotor functions, altered in some psychopathology. Moreover it is involved in some of the commonest and most severe psychiatric disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders, as well as in addiction, including drugs abuse, alcoholism and smoking. Nucleus accumbens has also a role in other psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder, attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of its rich dopaminergic projections, this nucleus has been subject of many studies in animals as well as in humans, connecting its malfunction with the disturbed reward process observed in depression. Neuromodulation interventions targeting the nucleus accumbens are nowadays applied in strictly selected patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette syndrome and addiction to drugs or alcohol. Specifically, bilateral and unilateral (right) deep brain stimulation of the nucleus accumbens has been applied in obsessive-compulsive patients resulting into significant improvement of their symptoms and their quality of life. Nucleus accumbens deep brain stimulation has been also associated with antidepressant and anxiolytic effect, as well as quality of life improvement in patients suffering from severe resistant depression. Finally, this minimally invasive stereotactic procedure has been proved beneficial for all phenotypic components of the Tourette syndrome, with remarkable reduction of the syndrome’s motor manifestations, including tics.
Key words: Νucleus accumbens, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, neuromodulation, psychiatric disorders.
Ι. Mavridis (page 282) - Full article (Greek)