'Liking' and 'wanting' food rewards: brain substrates and roles in eating disorders

Physiol Behav. 2009 Jul 14;97(5):537-50. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2009.02.044. Epub 2009 Mar 29.


What brain reward systems mediate motivational 'wanting' and hedonic 'liking' for food rewards? And what roles do those systems play in eating disorders? This article surveys recent findings regarding brain mechanisms of hedonic 'liking', such as the existence of cubic-millimeter hedonic hotspots in nucleus accumbens and ventral pallidum for opioid amplification of sensory pleasure. It also considers brain 'wanting' or incentive salience systems important to appetite, such as mesolimbic dopamine systems and opioid motivation circuits that extend beyond the hedonic hotspots. Finally, it considers some potential ways in which 'wanting' and 'liking' might relate to eating disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite / physiology
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / pathology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Food Preferences* / physiology
  • Food Preferences* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Reward*