An assortment of human behaviors is thought to be driven by rewards including reinforcement learning, novelty processing, learning, decision making, economic choice, incentive motivation, and addiction. In each case the ventral tegmental area/ventral striatum (nucleus accumbens) (VTA-VS) system has been implicated as a key structure by functional imaging studies, mostly on the basis of standard, univariate analyses. Here we propose that standard functional magnetic resonance imaging analysis needs to be complemented by methods that take into account the differential connectivity of the VTA-VS system in the different behavioral contexts in order to describe reward based processes more appropriately. We first consider the wider network for reward processing as it emerged from animal experimentation. Subsequently, an example for a method to assess functional connectivity is given. Finally, we illustrate the usefulness of such analyses by examples regarding reward valuation, reward expectation and the role of reward in addiction.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberDEC
Pages (from-to)350-362
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2009

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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