Reward processing in schizophrenia: a deficit in the representation of value

Schizophr Bull. 2008 Sep;34(5):835-47. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbn068. Epub 2008 Jun 30.


Patients with schizophrenia demonstrate deficits in motivation and learning that suggest impairment in different aspects of the reward system. In this article, we present the results of 8 converging experiments that address subjective reward experience, the impact of rewards on decision making, and the role of rewards in guiding both rapid and long-term learning. All experiments compared the performance of stably treated outpatients with schizophrenia and demographically matched healthy volunteers. Results to date suggest (1) that patients have surprisingly normal experiences of positive emotion when presented with evocative stimuli, (2) that patients show reduced correlation, compared with controls, between their own subjective valuation of stimuli and action selection, (3) that decision making in patients appears to be compromised by deficits in the ability to fully represent the value of different choices and response options, and (4) that rapid learning on the basis of trial-to-trial feedback is severely impaired whereas more gradual learning may be surprisingly preserved in many paradigms. The overall pattern of findings suggests compromises in the orbital and dorsal prefrontal structures that play a critical role in the ability to represent the value of outcomes and plans. In contrast, patients often (but not always) approach normal performance levels on the slow learning achieved by the integration of reinforcement signals over many trials, thought to be mediated by the basal ganglia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Motivation
  • Reward*
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology*
  • Social Perception*


  • Antipsychotic Agents