Motivational Neuronal Network
What is the MNN? The motivational neuronal network is a group of neuroscientists interested in the function and regulation of the ventral striatum (including the nucleus accumbens) and related structures. The nucleus accumbens is a key component of the subcortical limbic system and is involved in reward mechanisms. Neural coding of reward is one of the critical elements for acquiring new, learned behaviors and in behavioral adaptation. This function is fundamental for mediating goal directed behaviors. In a seminal paper, Heimer showed that the nucleus accumbens should be incorporated into the wider striatal system and, along with the surrounding ventromedial parts of the striatum are referred to as the ventral striatum. As such, this limbic forebrain region became part of the basal ganglia. The ventral striatum along with the structures associated with it, the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, ventral pallidum, and the midbrain dopamine cells, form a network critical for emotion, motivation, reinforcement, and learning. The intimate relationship between the limbic and motor systems within the basal ganglia has focused attention on the ability of the ventral striatal system to influence motor outcome. However, motor outcome that results from goal-stimulated motivation requires an animal to sequence a series of responses involving complex associative learning. This learning results in the development of behaviors leading to a specific goal, or goal directed behaviors. There is currently much interest in the underlying anatomical, neuronal, and molecular substrates involved in this function. However, this area of research is not targeted by any specialized society or professional organization and it has recently become clear that there is a need to provide a mechanism for continued discussions about the functional regulation of this forebrain region. As a result we have developed an informal group, the Motivational Neuronal Network.
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Department of Pharmacology and Physiology
University of Rochester Medical Center
601 Elmwood Avenue, Box 711
Rochester, NY 14642