Anticipation of increasing monetary reward selectively recruits nucleus accumbens

J Neurosci. 2001 Aug 15;21(16):RC159. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.21-16-j0002.2001.


Comparative studies have implicated the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) in the anticipation of incentives, but the relative responsiveness of this neural substrate during anticipation of rewards versus punishments remains unclear. Using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated whether the anticipation of increasing monetary rewards and punishments would increase NAcc blood oxygen level-dependent contrast (hereafter, "activation") in eight healthy volunteers. Whereas anticipation of increasing rewards elicited both increasing self-reported happiness and NAcc activation, anticipation of increasing punishment elicited neither. However, anticipation of both rewards and punishments activated a different striatal region (the medial caudate). At the highest reward level ($5.00), NAcc activation was correlated with individual differences in self-reported happiness elicited by the reward cues. These findings suggest that whereas other striatal areas may code for expected incentive magnitude, a region in the NAcc codes for expected positive incentive value.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Caudate Nucleus / anatomy & histology
  • Caudate Nucleus / blood supply
  • Caudate Nucleus / physiology
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intuition / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Nucleus Accumbens / anatomy & histology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / blood supply
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Reward*
  • Thalamus / anatomy & histology
  • Thalamus / blood supply
  • Thalamus / physiology


  • Oxygen