The neurotransmitter most commonly associated with the nucleus accumbens is dopamine. The nucleus accumbens receives dopaminergic neurons from the inventral tegmental area as well as messages from the prefrontal association cortices and the amygdala. People drawn to substances such as amphetamines, opiates, and nicotine, may unknowingly appreciate the euphoric effects directly on the nucleus accumbens.
Studies are beginning to find that we can even engage in a type of neural feedback, focusing on what areas of the brain we want to light up--and make it happen. This is akin to the break-through with biofeedback. For people who question the power of perception and psychology, it can be mind-blowing to view changes in heart rate and blood pressure when engaged in meditation or through thought.
There are things we can do, without drugs, that also jiggle the nucleus accumbens. Mindfully engagement in rewarding experiences such as sex, food, and exercise; enjoy that high that comes from dopaminergic release into the nucleus accumbens. While mindfulness isn't a requisite for the effect, this thoughtful approach allows us to both be fully present in the experience and be more in tune with when we are sated.
Pleasant visual images are also found to facilitate dopamine activation to the nucleus accumbens. Take feeling wound up, or despondent, or lost, as indication that a pause is necessary. Focus on several slow deep breaths to guide yourself into a pleasant visual image that incorporates all your senses. Specifically, if your image encompasses an ocean beach: taste the salt on the air, hear the seagulls, feel the heat of sun and sand, see the froth of white on blue as the waves crest in front of you.
Art can serve as a vehicle to help you transcend the hassles and ho-hum of daily living and jiggle the nucleus accumbens. Both viewing art and creating art. A subsequent post will address the art I viewed along the Baltic Sea.
Comment on what you use to jiggle your own nucleus accumbens.