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Neuroimage. 2010 Jan 15;49(2):1868-74. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.09.016. Epub 2009 Sep 18.

Neural reward processing is modulated by approach- and avoidance-related personality traits.

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Section of Experimental Psychopathology, Department of Psychiatry, University of Heidelberg, Germany.


The neural processing of reward can be differentiated into two sub-components with different functions, "wanting" (i.e., the expectation of a reward which includes appetitive and motivational components) and "liking" (i.e., the hedonic impact experienced during the receipt of a reward), involving distinct neural systems. We hypothesize that variability in neural reward processing previously observed in healthy subjects could reflect inter-individual differences in personality. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate how the neural processing during expectation and reception of a reward depends on interpersonal differences in reward sensitivity, more specifically the tendency to approach vs. avoid reward-related situations. We employed event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging during a monetary incentive delay task. Subjects with a high approach motivation showed more activation of the Ventral Striatum (VS) during the receipt of a reward, and more medial orbitofrontal activity during both the receipt and omission of a reward. Subjects with a high behavioral inhibition showed less activation in the VS during the receipt of a reward. These findings indicate that the tendency to approach or avoid reward-related situations exhibits a distinct relation with neural reward processing. Specifically, subjects with high behavioral approach appear to be sensitive mainly to positive outcomes and to a lesser extent to the omissions of rewards, whereas subjects with low behavioral approach as well as those with a high inhibition tendency display a blunted response to rewards.

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