Instrumental responding for rewards is associated with enhanced neuronal response in subcortical reward systems

Rebecca Elliott, Jana L. Newman, Olivia A. Longe, J. F William Deakin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The response of human reward systems to different reinforcers, including food, drugs and money, has been investigated in a number of recent functional neuroimaging studies. They have varied, however, in terms of whether or not a behavioural response was required to obtain rewards. The aim of the present study was to determine whether neuronal responses to financial reward are significantly modulated by the requirement to make a behavioural response. Twelve subjects were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing a simple target detection task. Certain targets acted as cues predicting financial reinforcement; some additionally required that a movement be executed, while others did not. There were also targets that required a movement but were not predictive of reward. We observed, as expected, responses within motor and reward systems associated with main effects of movement and reward, respectively. Critically, the reward responses were significantly modulated by the requirement to make an intervening behavioural response. Blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) responses in the amygdala and striatum were significantly enhanced when a movement was required, while reward-related response in the orbitofrontal cortex was independent of movement. These results suggest important dissociations within human reward systems, reflecting different properties of rewards. The striatum and amygdala may mediate the function of rewards in eliciting goal-directed behaviour, while the orbitofrontal cortex mediates incentive value. © 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)984-990
    Number of pages6
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


    • Financial reward
    • Neuronal response
    • Subcortical reward systems


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