The nucleus accumbens detects salience.
- An event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment which independently manipulated salience and valence (which many posit are represented by the nucleus accumbens function when anticipating incentives) sheds much light on whether the nuclear accumbens detect salience. The experiment cued participants to expect uncertain and certain monetary losses and gains. The results were as follows:
- The activation of the nucleus accumbens correlated with salience as well as valence.
- The activation of the nucleus accumbens decreased for expected losses, and increased for expected gains on the trials with certain outcomes.
- The activation of the nucleus accumbens increased for anticipated losses as well as gains without differing between them on the uncertain outcomes.
- The findings imply the following:
- The activation of the nucleus accumbens, in line with its hypothesized function in appetitive motivation, represents valence and salience separately.
- The two-component account wherein the activation of the nucleus accumbens reflects valence as well as salience is not challenged.
- While neither provides a complete explanation, valence and salience each, accounts partially, for the activation of the nucleus accumbens.
- There remains the possibility of a temporal break transpiring between the processing of salience and valence.
- There remains the possibility of a combination of salience and valence signals in the activation of the nucleus accumbens occurring at varying timescales.
- A two-component explanation may unify conflicting discoveries pertaining to incentive processing.