Reward, dopamine and the control of food intake: implications for obesity

Trends Cogn Sci. 2011 Jan;15(1):37-46. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.11.001. Epub 2010 Nov 24.


The ability to resist the urge to eat requires the proper functioning of neuronal circuits involved in top-down control to oppose the conditioned responses that predict reward from eating the food and the desire to eat the food. Imaging studies show that obese subjects might have impairments in dopaminergic pathways that regulate neuronal systems associated with reward sensitivity, conditioning and control. It is known that the neuropeptides that regulate energy balance (homeostatic processes) through the hypothalamus also modulate the activity of dopamine cells and their projections into regions involved in the rewarding processes underlying food intake. It is postulated that this could also be a mechanism by which overeating and the resultant resistance to homoeostatic signals impairs the function of circuits involved in reward sensitivity, conditioning and cognitive control.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cognition
  • Conditioning, Psychological
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Eating / physiology
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Reward*


  • Dopamine