Neural bases of food-seeking: affect, arousal and reward in corticostriatolimbic circuits

Physiol Behav. 2005 Dec 15;86(5):717-30. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2005.08.061. Epub 2005 Oct 27.


Recent studies suggest that there are multiple 'reward' or 'reward-like' systems that control food seeking; evidence points to two distinct learning processes and four modulatory processes that contribute to the performance of food-related instrumental actions. The learning processes subserve the acquisition of goal-directed and habitual actions and involve the dorsomedial and dorsolateral striatum, respectively. Access to food can function both to reinforce habits and as a reward or goal for actions. Encoding and retrieving the value of a goal appears to be mediated by distinct processes that, contrary to the somatic marker hypothesis, do not appear to depend on a common mechanism but on emotional and more abstract evaluative processes, respectively. The anticipation of reward on the basis of environmental events exerts a further modulatory influence on food seeking that can be dissociated from that of reward itself; earning a reward and anticipating a reward appear to be distinct processes and have been doubly dissociated at the level of the nucleus accumbens. Furthermore, the excitatory influence of reward-related cues can be both quite specific, based on the identity of the reward anticipated, or more general based on its motivational significance. The influence of these two processes on instrumental actions has also been doubly dissociated at the level of the amygdala. Although the complexity of food seeking provides a hurdle for the treatment of eating disorders, the suggestion that these apparently disparate determinants are functionally integrated within larger neural systems may provide novel approaches to these problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology
  • Eating / physiology
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Limbic System / physiology*
  • Neostriatum / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Reward*