Chapter 9: Emotion and Affective Neuroscience

9.3: Plasticity: Experiences Can Alter the Brain

Image of blue and red of neurons branches leading to white bulbs of glia.
Figure 6. Neural plasticity can be summed up in the phrase: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Or in other words, when certain emotions are paired with certain contexts, we learn to associate the two together.

The responses of specific neural regions may be modified by experience. For example, the front shell of the nucleus accumbens is generally involved in appetitive behaviors, such as eating, and the back shell is generally involved in fearful defensive behaviors (Reynolds & Berridge, 2001, 2002). Research using human neuroimaging has also revealed this front–back distinction in the functions of the nucleus accumbens (Seymour et al., 2007). However, when rats are exposed to stressful environments, their fear-generating regions expand toward the front, filling almost 90% of the nucleus accumbens shell. On the other hand, when rats are exposed to preferred home environments, their fear-generating regions shrink, and the appetitive regions expand toward the back, filling approximately 90% of the shell (Reynolds & Berridge, 2008).

Media Attributions


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Biological Psychology Copyright © 2024 by Michael J. Hove and Steven A. Martinez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book