Dopamine release within the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) has been associated with both the rewarding and locomotor-stimulant effects of abused drugs. The functions of the NAcc core and shell were investigated in mediating amphetamine-potentiated conditioned reinforcement and locomotion. Rats were initially trained to associate a neutral stimulus (Pavlovian CS) with food reinforcement (US). After excitotoxic lesions that selectively destroyed either the NAcc core or shell, animals underwent additional CS-US training sessions and then were tested for the acquisition of a new instrumental response that produced the CS acting as a conditioned reinforcer (CR). Animals were infused intra-NAcc with D-amphetamine (0, 1, 3, 10, or 20 microg) before each session. Shell lesions affected neither Pavlovian nor instrumental conditioning but completely abolished the potentiative effect of intra-NAcc amphetamine on responding with CR. Core-lesioned animals were impaired during the Pavlovian retraining sessions but showed no deficit in the acquisition of responding with CR. However, the selectivity in stimulant-induced potentiation of the CR lever was reduced, as intra-NAcc amphetamine infusions dose-dependently increased responding on both the CR lever and a nonreinforced (control) lever. Shell lesions produced hypoactivity and attenuated amphetamine-induced activity. In contrast, core lesions resulted in hyperactivity and enhanced the locomotor-stimulating effect of amphetamine. These results indicate a functional dissociation of subregions of the NAcc; the shell is a critical site for stimulant effects underlying the enhancement of responding with CR and locomotion after intra-NAcc injections of amphetamine, whereas the core is implicated in mechanisms underlying the expression of CS-US associations.