The European journal of neuroscience

Hippocampal interplay with the nucleus accumbens is critical for decisions about time.

PMID 26121594


Human cognition depends upon the capacity to make decisions in the present that bear upon outcomes in the future. The nucleus accumbens, a recipient of direct projections from both the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex, is known to contribute to these aspects of decision-making. Here we demonstrate that interaction of the nucleus accumbens with the hippocampus, but not the orbitofrontal cortex, is critical in shaping decisions that involve time trade-offs. Compared with controls, rats with a disrupted hippocampal-accumbens interaction were strongly biased toward choosing stimuli that led to small and immediate food rewards over large and delayed ones. We show that this pattern of behavior cannot be ascribed to the impaired representation of stimulus value, the incapacity to wait, or a general disruption of decision-making. These results identify a hippocampal-accumbens circuit that may underlie a range of problems in which daily decisions are marked by a shift toward immediate gratification.