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Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 2001 Oct;36(2-3):139-49.

Reward mechanisms in the brain and their role in dependence: evidence from neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies.

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PET Program, Paul Scherrer Institute, CH-5232, Villigen, Switzerland.


This article reviews neuronal activity related to reward processing in primate and human brains. In the primate brain, neurophysiological methods provide a differentiated view of reward processing in a limited number of brain structures. Dopamine neurons respond to unpredictable rewards and produce a global reinforcement signal. Some neurons in the striatum also react to the expectation and detection of reward. Other striatal neurons show reward-related activities related to the preparation, initiation and execution of movement. Orbitofrontal neurons discriminate among different rewards and code reward preferences. In the human brain, regions belonging to a meso-striatal and meso-corticolimbic loop respond to reinforcement stimuli in control subjects. These observations corroborate results obtained in primates. Additionally, reward induces activation in regions specific to task performance. Our results also show a similar pattern of reward-related activation in nicotine and opiate addicts. Thus, in contrast to healthy subjects, typical reward-related regions respond in addicts to monetary reward but not to nonmonetary reinforcement. Reduced activation in performance-related regions is also observed in both groups of dependent subjects. The results of animal and human studies suggest that dopamine and dopamine-related regions are associated with the integration of motivational information and movement execution. Dopamine-related pathological disorders can be associated with movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease or with false motivational attributions such as drug dependence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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