The nucleus accumbens (NAc) plays an important role in motivation and reward processing. Recent studies suggest that different NAc subnuclei differentially contribute to reward-related behaviors. However, how reward is encoded in individual NAc neurons remains unclear. Using in vivo single-cell resolution calcium imaging, we find diverse patterns of reward encoding in the medial and lateral shell subdivision of the NAc (NAcMed and NAcLat, respectively). Reward consumption increases NAcLat activity but decreases NAcMed activity, albeit with high variability among neurons. The heterogeneity in reward encoding could be attributed to differences in their synaptic inputs and transcriptional profiles. Specific optogenetic activation of Nts-positive neurons in the NAcLat promotes positive reinforcement, while activation of Cartpt-positive neurons in the NAcMed induces behavior aversion. Collectively, our study shows the organizational and transcriptional differences in NAc subregions and provides a framework for future dissection of NAc subregions in physiological and pathological conditions.
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