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Neuroimage. 2009 Jul 15;46(4):1148-53. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.03.038. Epub 2009 Mar 25.

Neural response to reward anticipation is modulated by Gray's impulsivity.

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University of Wuerzburg, Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Wuerzburg, Germany.


According to the Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory (RST), Gray's dimension of impulsivity, reflecting human trait reward sensitivity, determines the extent to which stimuli activate the Behavioural Approach System (BAS). The potential neural underpinnings of the BAS, however, remain poorly understood. In the present study, we examined the association between Gray's impulsivity as defined by the RST and event-related fMRI BOLD-response to anticipation of reward in twenty healthy human subjects in brain regions previously associated with reward processing. Anticipation of reward during a Monetary Incentive Delay Task elicited activation in key components of the human reward circuitry such as the ventral striatum, the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex. Interindividual differences in Gray's impulsivity accounted for a significant amount of variance of the reward-related BOLD-response in the ventral striatum and the orbitofrontal cortex. Specifically, higher trait reward sensitivity was associated with increased activation in response to cues indicating potential reward. Extending previous evidence, here we show that variance in functional brain activation during anticipation of reward is attributed to interindividual differences regarding Gray's dimension of impulsivity. Thus, trait reward sensitivity contributes to the modulation of responsiveness in major components of the human reward system which thereby display a core property of the BAS. Generally, fostering our understanding of the neural underpinnings of the association of reward-related interindividual differences in affective traits might aid researchers in quest for custom-tailored treatments of psychiatric disorders, further disentangling the complex relationship between personality traits, emotion, and health.

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