The habenula: from stress evasion to value-based decision-making

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2010 Jul;11(7):503-13. doi: 10.1038/nrn2866.


Surviving in a world with hidden rewards and dangers requires choosing the appropriate behaviours. Recent discoveries indicate that the habenula plays a prominent part in such behavioural choice through its effects on neuromodulator systems, in particular the dopamine and serotonin systems. By inhibiting dopamine-releasing neurons, habenula activation leads to the suppression of motor behaviour when an animal fails to obtain a reward or anticipates an aversive outcome. Moreover, the habenula is involved in behavioural responses to pain, stress, anxiety, sleep and reward, and its dysfunction is associated with depression, schizophrenia and drug-induced psychosis. As a highly conserved structure in the brain, the habenula provides a fundamental mechanism for both survival and decision-making.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Habenula / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology