The SEEKING Mind: Primal Neuro-Affective Substrates for Appetitive Incentive States and Their Pathological Dynamics in Addictions and Depression

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2011 Oct;35(9):1805-20. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.03.002. Epub 2011 Mar 15.


Appetitive motivation and incentive states are essential functions sustained by a common emotional brain process, the SEEKING disposition, which drives explorative and approach behaviors, sustains goal-directed activity, promotes anticipatory cognitions, and evokes feelings of positive excitement which control reward-learning. All such functions are orchestrated by the same "archetypical" neural processes, activated in ancient subcortical areas and transported to the forebrain by the mesolimbic dopamine (ML-DA) system. In mammals, the neurophysiology of the SEEKING urge is expressed by DA-promoted high-frequency oscillations, in the form of transient and synchronized gamma waves (>30Hz) emerging in limbic forebrain and diffusing throughout basal ganglia-thalamocortical (BG-T-C) circuits. These patterns may be considered basic "SEEKING neurodynamic impulses" which represent the primary-process exploratory disposition getting integrated with information relative to the external and the internal environment. Abnormal manifestation of SEEKING and its neural substrates are evident in clinical depression and addiction. Specifically, depression is characterized by reduced recruitment of SEEKING, while addictions reflect re-organizations of the SEEKING disposition around ultra-specific appetitive memories and compulsive activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Motivation*
  • Nervous System / anatomy & histology
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena
  • Neurobiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*