A systematic review of fMRI reward paradigms used in studies of adolescents vs. adults: the impact of task design and implications for understanding neurodevelopment

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013 Jun;37(5):976-91. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.03.004. Epub 2013 Mar 18.


The neural systems underlying reward-related behaviors across development have recently generated a great amount of interest. Yet, the neurodevelopmental literature on reward processing is marked by inconsistencies due to the heterogeneity of the reward paradigms used, the complexity of the behaviors being studied, and the developing brain itself as a moving target. The present review will examine task design as one source of variability across findings by compiling this literature along three dimensions: (1) task structures, (2) cognitive processes, and (3) neural systems. We start with the presentation of a heuristic neural systems model, the Triadic Model, as a way to provide a theoretical framework for the neuroscience research on motivated behaviors. We then discuss the principles guiding reward task development. Finally, we review the extant developmental neuroimaging literature on reward-related processing, organized by reward task type. We hope that this approach will help to clarify the literature on the functional neurodevelopment of reward-related neural systems, and to identify the role of the experimental parameters that significantly influence these findings.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Oxygen
  • Reward*


  • Oxygen