(A) Left: example trajectory of a rat in the real-time place aversion test (30 min), in which entry into one quadrant (shaded), which was randomly determined prior to the session, led to 90 dB WN exposure. Right: aversiveness of WN in the place aversion test quantified as significantly decreased time spent in the WN quadrant (n = 10, 9.71 ± 1.65, t(9) = 9.585, p<0.0001). (B) Left: a second cohort of rats was placed in the open field to assess their preferred quadrant in a first session. In a second session, the entry into the preferred quadrant led to 90 dB WN exposure. Right: when WN was administered in this quadrant, rats spent significantly less time in it (n = 15, No WN: 48.5 ± 0.2474, 90 dB: 7.983 ± 0.3875, t(14) = 13.43, p<0.0001). (C) Left: a third cohort of rats (n = 12) was exposed to an open-field foraging task in which food pellets were placed between grid-floor bars in one of the quadrants. Entry into the grid-floor quadrant (shaded) led to exposure of 0, 70, 80, 90, or 96 dB of WN, or a 3 kHz tone in separate sessions. Middle: increasing WN intensity dose-dependently decreased the amount of time rats spent foraging for food pellets in the grid-floor quadrant (χ2(5) = 27.6, p<0.0001), whereas the tone did not reduce foraging (70 dB WN vs. 70 dB tone (#); t(10) = 2.389, p=0.0381). Right: the rats’ response to the different WN intensities and the tone was reliable across first and second sessions of exposure, where rats underwent exposure to all WN intensities and the tone in a first session, before exposure to each in a second session. (D) Left: all other experiments took place in operant boxes equipped with a food magazine, a multiple-tone generator (cue speaker), and a WN generator (WN speaker). Middle: semi-random presentations of 6 s WN bouts increased the locomotion speed of rats (cohort 4; n = 14) in an operant box during the WN epoch compared to pre-WN baseline (post-hoc Dunn’s test, t(13) = 7.059, p<0.0001). Right: in another cohort of rats (cohort 5; n = 13), we tested different WN intensities and found a main effect of intensity on locomotion speed (χ2(3) = 13.80, p=0.0032) and significant differences between 70 and 90 dB (p=0.005) and 70 and 96 dB (p=0.0143) (n=13). (E) Rats (n = 17) responded reliably with increased locomotion speed to WN across days. (F) Rats (cohort 6; n = 9) discern between different WN magnitudes in an operant choice task, where they had to choose between pressing a lever that resulted in a food-pellet delivery and a lever that resulted in a food-pellet delivery plus simultaneous 5 s of 0, 70, 90, or 96 dB of WN (pellet + WN; Friedman test, χ2(3) = 11.57, p=0.0003). (G) Left: example cresyl violet-stained brain slice depicting an electrolytic lesion in the NAC (outlined) at the tip of the fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) electrode (vertical black line). Right: schematic overview of FSCV recording locations (blue dots) in the NAC (gray) of all animals. (H) Single-trial pseudocolor plot (top panel), dopamine trace (bottom panel), and cyclic voltammograms (inset in bottom panel) for representative, dopamine-specific current fluctuations recorded in NAC, 5 s before WN (dashed line), during 6 s of WN (gray bar), and 14 s after WN. Except for panel (H), data are mean ± SEM. *p<0.05, **p<0.01, ***p<0.001.