Active avoidance requires a serial basal amygdala to nucleus accumbens shell circuit

Franchesca Ramirez, Justin M. Moscarello, Joseph E. Le Doux, Robert M. Sears

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Freezing is a species-typical defensive reaction to conditioned threats. While the neural circuitry of aversive Pavlovian behavior has been extensively studied, less is known about the circuitry underlying more active responses to danger. Here we show that the flow of information between the basal amygdala (BA) and the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) is necessary for signaled active avoidance behavior. Rats trained to avoid shock by shuttling during an auditory conditioned stimulus showed increased expression of the activity-dependent protein c-Fos in the NAcc, specifically the shell subregion (NAccSh). Silencing neural activity in the NAccSh, but not in the adjacent NAcc core, disrupted avoidance behavior. Disconnection of the BA and the NAccSh was just as effective at disrupting avoidance behavior as bilateral NAccSh inactivations, suggesting learned avoidance behavior requires an intact BA-NAccSh circuit. Together, these data highlight an essential role for the amygdalar projection to the ventral striatum in aversively motivated actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3470-3477
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2015


  • Aversive
  • Fear conditioning
  • Motivation
  • Negative reinforcement
  • Two-way signaled active avoidance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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