The role of ghrelin in reward-based eating

Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Sep 1;72(5):347-53. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.02.016. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


The peptide hormone ghrelin acts in the central nervous system as a potent orexigenic signal. Not only is ghrelin recognized as playing an important role in feeding circuits traditionally thought of as affecting body weight homeostasis, but also an accumulating number of scientific studies have identified ghrelin as being a key regulator of reward-based, hedonic eating behaviors. In the current article, we review ghrelin's orexigenic actions, the evidence linking ghrelin to food reward behavior, potential mechanisms by which ghrelin mediates reward-based eating behavior, and those studies suggesting an obligatory role for ghrelin in the changed eating behaviors induced by stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Ghrelin / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Rats
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology*
  • Reward*
  • Stress, Psychological*


  • Ghrelin
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Dopamine