Feature Finding Title
Feature Finding Figure

Prefrontal Cortex to Accumbens Projections in Sleep Regulation of Reward


Sleep profoundly affects the emotional and motivational state. In humans and animals, loss of sleep often results in enhanced motivation for reward, which has direct implications for health risks as well as potential benefits. Current study aims at understanding the mechanisms underlying sleep deprivation (SDe)-induced enhancement of reward seeking. We found that after acute SDe, mice had an increase in sucrose seeking and consumption but not food intake, suggesting a selective enhancement of motivation for reward. In the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a key brain region regulating emotional and motivational responses, we observed a decrease in the ratio of the overall excitatory over inhibitory synaptic inputs onto NAc principle neurons after SDe. The shift was partly mediated by reduced glutamatergic transmission of presynaptic origin. Further analysis revealed that there was selective reduction of the glutamate release probability at the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC)-to-NAc synapses, but not those from the hippocampus, thalamus, or the basal lateral amygdala. To reverse this SDe-induced synaptic alteration, we expressed the stabilized step function opsin (SSFO) in the mPFC; optogenetic stimulation of SSFO at mPFC-to-NAc projection terminals persistently enhanced the action potential-dependent glutamate release. Intra-NAc optogenetic stimulation of SSFO selectively at mPFC-to-NAc terminals restored normal sucrose seeking in mice after SDe without affecting food intake (Figure). These results highlight the mPFC-to-NAc projection as a key circuit-based target for sleep to regulate reward-motivated behaviors. Sleep loss, a costly challenge of modern society, has profound physiological and psychological consequences, including altered reward processing of the brain. The current study aims at understanding the mechanisms underlying sleep deprivation-induced enhancement of reward seeking. We identify that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC)-to-nucleus accumbens (NAc) glutamatergic transmission is selectively weakened following acute sleep deprivation, whose restoration normalizes reward seeking in sleep-deprived mice. These results suggest a possibility of normalizing sleep deprivation-induced abnormal reward seeking by targeting specific neural projections, and they demonstrate the mPFC-to-NAc glutamatergic projection as a key circuit-based target for sleep to regulate reward-motivated behaviors.
Liu Z, Wang Y, Cai L, Li Y, Chen B, Dong Y, Huang YH: Prefrontal Cortex to Accumbens Projections in Sleep Regulation of Reward. J Neurosci 36(30):7897-910, July 27, 2016.

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David A. Lewis, M.D. | Department of Psychiatry | University of Pittsburgh
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