University of California Riverside.
The neural reward system plays a key role in human learning, motivation, pleasure, and the ability to change one’s behavior to maximize desired outcomes. Given the wide range of behaviors affected by the reward system, it is unsurprising that aberrant functioning of this system is implicated in multiple psychiatric disorders.
Blunted reward anticipation and responsivity has been observed in individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD), and individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show attenuated reward-related brain activity. Conversely, individuals with bipolar disorder (BP) evidence hyper-activity of the reward system. Deficiencies in the reward system appear important for both the development and maintenance of drug addiction and pathological gambling. The reward system affects schizophrenia (SCZ)—with increased salience for irrelevant and meaningless stimuli, and decreased salience for relevant stimuli hypothesized as driving factors of positive and negative symptoms, respectively. Individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tend to discount the value of delayed rewards and over-value immediate rewards.
Given the importance of the reward system for behavior and its purported role in psychological disorders, neuroscience studies of typical and atypical reward functioning have the potential to improve our understanding of behavior and inform treatments. Considering the broad reach of the reward system, it is critical to highlight findings from a variety of neuroscience modalities—including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and magnetoencephalography (MEG). In the current collection, we present neuroscience studies that investigate the reward system both in neurotypical individuals and those diagnosed with MDD, ASD, BP, addiction, SCZ, and ADHD.